Ensuring the proper decommissioning of complex and legacy nuclear sites is important not only to meet radiological and environmental standards but also to reinforce confidence in the sector as a provider of clean and reliable energy.
Innovative technologies can be particularly helpful in this field and were the focus of a three-day workshop in Paris, France, organised by the NEA’s Working Party on the Technical, Environmental, and Safety Aspects of Decommissioning and Legacy Management (WPTES) from 29 November to 1 December 2022.
Over 140 decommissioning experts from around the world convened in person and online to share information and discuss challenges associated with new technologies and techniques to support the decommissioning of complex and legacy sites. The experts represented operating facilities, technical support organisations, regulatory agencies and research organisations.
Technical sessions were organised under two tracks: innovations related to (i) characterisation and (ii) decontamination and decommissioning (D&D). The first track included five sub-sessions on the characterisation of land, buildings and the subsurface, modeling/tools to support decommissioning and general characterisation. The agenda spanned a range of topics, including measurement and delivery methods, mathematical modeling and digitalisation and tools to aid in decommissioning planning and implementation.
The second track included presentations on topics such as decontamination and dismantling of buildings aided by robotics, soil sorting machines and remediation. Participants also discussed the challenges associated with regulatory readiness along with recommendations to facilitate technology development based on lessons learnt from past innovations.
The four focus areas of the WPTES are (i) risk management in support of decision-making, (ii) sampling, characterisation and data evaluation, (iii) innovative decontamination and decommissioning technologies, and (iv) materials management. While this workshop focused on the second and third areas, they are all interconnected: risk assessment is seen as driving characterisation, as well as D&D, remedial and clearance decision-making. The technology needed for materials characterisation, reuse, recycling and clearance was also an important theme of the workshop. The WPTES hopes to create an Expert Group whose work would be based in part on findings from this workshop.
Participants held break-out sessions to explore questions related to technology sharing, lessons learnt and challenges and gaps in characterisation and D&D. They agreed that information sharing related to D&D innovation was important but challenging. Various databases, wiki sites and other information sharing hubs are available but these sites can be difficult to access and maintain. The future work of the WPTES will be informed by the views of participating countries on data and information gaps, including characterisation of building structures, subsurface materials and waste characterisation.
Participants provided feedback on the workshop and on potential topics for future events, with the WPTES likely to hold a second workshop due to strong interest.
The proceedings of the workshop will be published in 2023.
For more on the NEA's work on decommissioning, visit here.