innovative nuclear challenge

Let’s get technical when it comes to decommissioning

To wrap up our series of insights on DEM2021, the international conference on nuclear decommissioning, let’s get into the nitty gritty technical details of nuclear decommissioning. 

If decommissioning a nuclear facility was only tearing down buildings and dismantling pipelines, it would be somehow a lot easier. However, when you have to deal with radioactive waste, legacy buildings, poor data management, undefined constraints of dose, access or contamination, things tend to get a tad more complicated …

nuclear lab innovation
Photo by Hans Reniers on Unsplash

As we discussed in our first insight, upfront characterisation is key. You can’t perform any D&D activities without knowing what you will be dealing with. Considering the complexity of any D&D projects, any surprise would definitely not be welcome as we mentioned in our first insight in this DEM2021 series. However, once you have a clear idea, you can start deploying your decommissioning strategy.

However, it is not that simple. You want to be as efficient as possible, but you need to minimise the impact on the workers and the environment. It means, you want to reduce as much as possible the dose uptake of the onsite workers. When the radiations are too high, your workers cannot enter the area to dismantle, leading to a need of remote operations and innovations.

Regarding environmental impact, all activities should not release any radioactive particles – but also conventional hazardous elements such as asbestos – that could damage the environment. 

All these abatement techniques to safely decommission a facility – e.g. decontamination, dismantling – will be discussed in details by Grégoire Augé, head of innovation and technical development at Onet Technologies. (Buildings and Sites rehabilitation session)

asbestos nuclear
Photo by Tneil Abt on Unsplash

Moreover, something you cannot avoid when running a decommissioning project is radioactive waste. Depending on their nature, they can stop irradiating over few years or few thousand years. To reduce their impact, it’s essential to correctly characterise, sort and segregate them. After proper decontamination, some of them could be recycled. For instance, some steel is being reused as waste containers.

But others, need to be secured – e.g. in a grout matrix – and safely disposed till they don’t harm the environment. To discuss this aspect, Frédéric Legée, head of strategic projects at Andra is organising a specific session on Material and Radioactive Waste Management.

All in all, the breadth of themes covered at DEM21 is mouth-watering (from any nuclear professional that is). As for inTechBrew, this insight wraps up our series on DEM2021. If you want to know more on nuclear decommissioning and network with international experts, don’t miss it out this conference ! Pop in for a chat with us too, inTechBrew will be there, from the 13th of September to the 15th of September in Avignon, France. 


Independent associate focussed on business analysis and development in the nuclear industry. CEO, Master Brewer at inTechBrew

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