Nuclear decommissioning is the process whereby a nuclear facility is dismantled to the point that it no longer requires measures for radiation protection. The presence of radioactive material necessitates processes that are potentially occupationally hazardous, expensive, time-intensive, and present environmental risks that must be addressed to ensure radioactive materials are either transported elsewhere for storage or stored on-site in a safe manner. The challenge in nuclear decommissioning is not just technical, but also economical and social and is to be treated as a very sensitive project.
When a power company decides to close a nuclear power plant permanently, the facility must be decommissioned by safely removing it from service and reducing residual radioactivity to a level that permits release of the property and termination of the operating license. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has strict rules governing nuclear power plant decommissioning, involving cleanup of radioactively contaminated plant systems and structures, and removal of the radioactive fuel. These requirements protect workers and the public during the entire decommissioning process and the public after the license is terminated.
Decommissioning is an administrative and technical process. It includes clean-up of radioactive materials and progressive demolition of the facility. Once a facility is fully decommissioned, no radiological danger should persist. The costs of decommissioning are generally spread over the lifetime of a facility and saved in a decommissioning fund. After a facility has been completely decommissioned, it is released from regulatory control and the plant licensee is no longer responsible for its nuclear safety. Decommissioning may proceed all the way to "greenfield" status.
Immediate Dismantling (Early Site Release/Decon in the United States) allows for the facility to be removed from regulatory control relatively soon after shutdown. Final dismantling or decontamination activities begin within a few months or years, and depending on the facility, it could take five years or more. After being removed from regulatory control, the site becomes available for unrestricted use.
Safe Enclosure (or Safestor(e) Safstor) postpones the final decommissioning for a longer period, usually 40 to 60 years. The nuclear facility is placed into a safe storage configuration during this time.
Entombment/Entomb involves placing the facility in a condition that allows the remaining radioactive material to remain on-site indefinitely. The size of the area where the radioactive material is located is generally minimized and the facility is encased in a long-lived material such as concrete, with the aim of preventing a release of radioactive material.
At Fabio Bruno USA we can assist in the decommissioning process once the NPP has been approved for Dismantling. Please contact us today to see how we can meet the needs of you and your project.