Addressing the issues raised by the management of long-lived radioactive spent discharged nuclear fuel, is probably the main challenge facing nuclear energy in coming years, whether it is dealing with the accumulated stock in a phase-out context or to sustain the further deployment of nuclear power as low-carbon energy source. Even though americium, neptunium, and curium, known as the minor actinides (MA) represent less than 0.1 wt% of the spent nuclear fuel, they are the main responsible for long-term radioactivity and heat load of the ultimate waste after plutonium recycling. A possible solution to reduce the long-term radiotoxicity of spent fuel nuclear wastes is to transmute MA, and in particular the most abundant Americium, into lighter short-lived elements in a fast reactor such as MYRRHA under development at SCK•CEN.
Through a recently approved 5-year project, the Belgian government is sponsoring a PhD work on innovative fabrication processes for Americium-containing targets. Original fabrication processes will be applied to produce Am-containing microspheres with a tailored microstructure and composition using the brand-new actinides lab of SCK•CEN. High-end equipment will be used to characterize obtained microspheres. Knowledge exchange with other labs are foreseen through collaboration in existing European Projects (GENIORS, TRANSMEETS) and short research stays. Following a successful production of Am-containing targets, their irradiation in the Belgian Research Reactor BR2 for transmutation studies will be considered.