Dismantling of nuclear installations

> Dismantling of the BR3 reactor: a world first
> Our dismantling expertise in high demand

When a nuclear installation is permanently shut down, it needs to be safely dismantled and decontaminated. Our distinctive expertise, which was developed during the dismantling of the BR3 reactor, is now available for other nuclear installations at a national and international level. The main challenge associated with dismantling operations is finding the balance between safety and economic feasibility. In that sense BR3 proved to be a unique learning platform.

Dismantling of the BR3 reactor:
a world first

Our BR3 reactor was shut down in 1987. It was the first pressurized water reactor in Europe to be selected for complete dismantling. The objective of this demonstration project was to illustrate its technical and economic feasibility. The dismantling operations produced a wealth of data relating to costs, waste production and radiation protection. This knowledge now enables us to produce realistic calculations of the technical feasibility and financial impact of other dismantling projects.

New developments

The first task during the dismantling of the BR3 reactor was to remove and dispose of the nuclear fuels. Next were the highly radioactive components such as the reactor vessel and contaminated circuits, including the primary cooling circuit. We developed innovative cutting techniques for all these operations. Special robots and remotely operated equipment made it possible to keep the radiation doses to which our employees were exposed to an absolute minimum – our main concern throughout the entire project. To this end we also developed specific software, which produces a 3D image of the radiation environment.

 

This makes it possible to plan in advance the best way to approach the dismantling operations. The dismantling of a nuclear installation inevitably creates nuclear waste, which is very expensive to store. We designed methods to reduce the amount of radioactive waste to a minimum, for example, by decontaminating metal components. To do so we built a chemical decontamination installation in-house. We also make our know-how available to clients.

Back to a 'green field' site

The final part of a dismantling project involves the decontamination and demolishing of all the buildings on the site. The aim is to restore the terrain back to ‘green field’ status so that it can be used for new purposes.

BR3 pictures

Our dismantling expertise in high demand

There is a global demand for the dismantling of nuclear installations and this will only increase in future as more and more installations reach the end of their operational life. We consequently expect a rising demand for our expertise gained during the dismantling of our BR3 reactor.

Furthermore, our experience with BR3 also provides valuable information for the design of new installations to ensure that they in turn can be decommissioned safely and efficiently at a later date with a minimum of radioactive waste. We are already involved in the dismantling of the MOX installations of Belgonucleaire in Dessel and the Thetis research reactor at the premises of the University of Ghent.

More info: Dismantling and decontamination 

More information on our Science Platform