Answer from IAEA_Question about classification of used fuel rods

Question about classification of used fuel rods

Anne Albinus <>18. september 2012 kl. 09.15
Til: Official.Mail()
Dear Sir,

According to the IAEA classification 2009, does this mean that you can classify used fuel rods as 
Intermediate level waste (ILW) since they no longer produce heat?

Yours truly,

Anne Albinus>18. september 2012 kl. 13.35

Dear Ms Albinus,


Thanks for your question about classification of used fuel rods.


To answer your question let me first explain what is meant by a fuel rod. A fuel rod consists of the fuel itself and its cladding (a metal tube in which the fuel is placed). A number of fuel rods are then assembled into a fuel element.


After use in a reactor the fuel is highly radioactive and continues to generate heat  due to radioactive decay. Normally a fuel element is handled (for example storage) as a “unit” and it would thus be classified as high level waste.


If the fuel element for any reason is disassembled the fuel itself would be classified as high level waste being highly radioactive and heat generating. The other parts of the fuel element (e.g. the cladding) are radioactive but do not generate heat and could thus be classified as intermediate level waste depending on the level of radioactivity.



Best regards,



Magnus Vesterlind 
Head, Waste and Environmental Safety Section 
Division of Radiation, Transport and Waste Safety 
P.O. Box 100, A-1400 Vienna, Austria

Tel: +(43 1) 2600 22666