A new European Project has been launched in April 2008 under the 7th EURATOM Framework Programme (FP7-211333), with a duration of four years, addressing the ‘Treatment and Disposal of Irradiated Graphite and other Carbonaceous Waste (CARBOWASTE)’. The objective of this project is the development of best practices in the retrieval, treatment and disposal of irradiated graphite & carbonaceous waste-like structural material e.g. non-graphitised carbon bricks and fuel coatings (pyrocarbon, silicon carbide). It addresses both legacy waste as well as waste from future generations of graphite-based nuclear fuel. After defining the various targets for an integrated waste management, comprehensive analysis of the key stages from in-reactor storage to final disposal will then be undertaken with regard to the most economic, environmental and sustainable options. This will be supported by a characterisation programme to localize the contamination in the microstructure of the irradiated graphite and so more to better understand their origin and the release mechanisms during treatment and disposal. It has been discovered that a significant part of the contamination (including 14C) can be removed by thermal, chemical or even microbiological treatment. The feasibility of the associated processes will be experimentally investigated to determine and optimise the decontamination factors. Reuse of the purified material will also be addressed to close the ‘Graphite Cycle’ for future graphite moderated reactors. The disposal behaviour of graphite and carbonaceous wastes and the improvement of suitable waste packages will be another focus of the programme. The CARBOWASTE project is of major importance for the deployment of HTR as each HTR module generates (during a 60 years operational lifetime) about 5,000 to 10,000 metric tonnes of contaminated graphite containing some Peta-Becquerel of radiocarbon. It is strongly recommended to take decommissioning and waste management issues of graphite-moderated reactors already into account when designing new HTR concepts.

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