IAEA Guides Countries on Managing Spent Nuclear Fuel: A Critical Step for Nuclear Power’s Future


Nuclear power plants are a critical component of the global energy landscape, providing baseload power with minimal greenhouse gas emissions. However, the spent fuel from these plants poses a long-term management challenge. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has released a comprehensive guide to assist countries in effectively managing spent nuclear fuel.

The Importance of Spent Fuel Management

Nuclear fuel, after it has been used in a power plant, becomes highly radioactive and must be managed safely and securely. Proper management of spent fuel is essential for:

  • Ensuring the health and safety of the public and the environment
  • Facilitating the future use of nuclear power
  • Advancing the development of innovative solutions for energy production and resource recovery

IAEA Guide: Key Recommendations

The IAEA guide outlines key recommendations for managing spent fuel, including:

  • Early planning and infrastructure development: Establishing clear plans and infrastructure for fuel transportation, storage, and disposal.
  • Dry storage: Implementing robust dry storage facilities to temporarily store spent fuel safely and securely.
  • Disposition options: Exploring the potential for long-term disposal options such as geological repositories and deep geological storage.
  • International collaboration: Sharing expertise and resources with other countries and organizations.

Benefits of Effective Management

Effective management of spent nuclear fuel offers significant benefits, including:

  • Enhanced safety and security
  • Reduced environmental impact
  • Increased public acceptance of nuclear power
  • Enabling the continued deployment of nuclear energy for sustainable energy production


The IAEA guide provides a valuable resource for countries to address the challenges of spent fuel management. By implementing the recommendations outlined in the guide, countries can ensure the safe and responsible management of this material, facilitating the future of nuclear power.


1. What is the current global inventory of spent fuel?

  • The estimated global inventory of spent fuel is around 94,000 metric tons.

2. How long does spent fuel remain radioactive?

  • Spent fuel remains radioactive for thousands of years.

3. What are the main safety concerns related to spent fuel?

  • The main safety concerns are the potential for criticality (accidental nuclear reactions) and the release of radioactive materials into the environment.

4. What are the potential options for spent fuel disposal?

  • Potential options include dry storage, geological repository, and reprocessing for reuse in new fuel.

5. How can the IAEA help countries with spent fuel management?

  • The IAEA provides technical assistance, training, and guidance to countries on spent fuel management.


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