First steps of nuclear cleanup

This year, DEM2021, the international decommissioning conference is going to discuss some fascinating topics on D&D. It will all take place on the 13th to 15th of September in Avignon, France. We, at inTechBrew, will be present at DEM2021. So, we decided to go through what the best bits from the upcoming DEM2021 are likely to be. So, if you are ready for some interesting insights on nuclear cleanup or D&D, this post will begin a series of three articles to explore DEM2021.

Between 2 and 12 nuclear reactors are expected to shut down every year in the world. With this ever-increasing number of nuclear facilities under decommissioning, a clear strategy and understanding of the tasks are necessary to achieve a cost and time efficient approach.


Apart from research or fuel processing facilities, many nuclear power plants have similarities in terms of design. To achieve economies of scale when it comes to nuclear decommissioning, it is essential to run a coherent D&D programme, standardising as many procedures as possible to repeat across entire sites – including research and fuel processing facilities – and fleet of shutdown reactors. In some situations, there are specificities, that can be site-related but also sometimes it can be due to national strategy. For instance, the Magnox and AGR fleets in the UK are all different as they had different contractors and modified various elements in the design to improve their reactors. Considerations for the site history as well as other essential elements will be discussed during DEM2021. Estelle Desroches, the CEO of Cyclife, supervised the Dismantling Strategy and Program Development session for this conference.

nuclear plant

Having a strategy is nice. But how can you set up a clear strategy without knowing what you have to deal with? Some facilities have been operating for more than half a century before being shut-down. Back in the days, knowledge management was not the priority. During D&D activities, some discrepancies can appear. All of these discoveries can have a drastic impact on the activities, leading to costs and time delays (sometimes up to a few years). In some situations, it can even lead to the safety authority revoking the decommissioning licence till things are figured out. To understand how critical the initial radiological state characterisation of a site is, Danielle Roudil, a CEA expert took the lead to organise a specific session on Initial Radiological State Characterisation.

In a perfect world, a site is being decommissioned because it reached the end of its operating life. However, we all know that is not true in all sites. Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Fukushima Daiichi and other sites show that facilities need to be decommissioned following an accident. A side effect of these incredible challenges is to drastically accelerate the intake of  innovations that can be then transferred to the wider world of decommissioning. As an example, Fukushima Daiichi is a perfect site for robotics development. It allows workers to perform survey areas where the dose uptake is too high for human entry. Christine Georges, the CEA head of international development set up a specific session where synergies between these two states of decommissioning were identified. (Decommissioning of Damaged Nuclear Facilities session)

stakeholder involvement

Decommissioning is definitely a technical challenge as we’ve seen, but not only. Any industrial site is deeply implanted in its territory as it creates secondary and induced jobs. Most of these people are living very locally, around site. Hence, when it comes to moving from an operating to a decommissioning facility and beyond, it has a drastic impact (ethically, professionally and economically) on the area. Including stakeholders from the surrounding communities is essential to get their involvement in the new activities. Without a clear support from them, D&D tasks might be slowed down and maybe even delayed by several years as seen in some nuclear facilities across the world. Here, Thierry Taponard, EDF head of communication for D&D projects organised a specific session on Stakeholders Involvements and Public Acceptance.

With decommissioning involving many challenging tasks from a technical but also business point of view, the DEM2021 conference is a great opportunity, over 3 days (13/09 – 15/09), to get access to share some exciting insights and expertise from the world of decommissioning. 

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

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