The World Nuclear Association [i] explains that all power plants, coal, gas and nuclear, have a finite life beyond which it is not economically feasible to operate them.
Generally speaking, early nuclear plants were designed for a life of about 30 years, though with refurbishment, some have proved capable of continuing well beyond this. Newer plants are designed for a 40 to 60 year operating life. At the end of the life of any power plant, it needs to be decommissioned, cleaned up and demolished so that the site is made available for other uses.
For nuclear plants, the term decommissioning includes all clean-up of radioactivity and progressive dismantling of the plant. This may start with the owner's decision to write it off or declare that it is permanently removed from operation. For practical purposes it includes defueling and removal of coolant. Although it can sometimes be defined as strictly beginning only after fuel and coolant are removed, nuclear decommissioning concludes with licence termination after decontamination is verified and wastes removed.
As of November 2018 Over 115 commercial power reactors, 48 experimental or prototype reactors, over 250 research reactors and several fuel cycle facilities have been retired from operation.
In the UK in 2005 the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) was set up to manage these decommissioning challenges. The NDA currently manages 17 sites across the UK at different stages of decommissioning. Rightly the NDA’s priority is to deal with the highest hazards and make substantial progress across all of its sites [ii].
The Sellafield site is probably the most well known nuclear site in the UK. This is a complex and challenging site which includes managing what is left from early nuclear research including the first prototype nuclear reactors and the UK’s early nuclear weapons programme.
The site is particularly challenging as in places there are no accurate blueprints or inventories, increasing the complexity of the work.
These challenges require innovative, unique and high tech engineering solutions and as a result the UK has become a world-leader in decommissioning and is able to export this expertise around the world.
Decommissioning projects are complex, long and expensive, and in the near future will raise more and more techno-socio-economic challenges that will necessitate complex decision-making tools.
How should the major projects industry respond to the challenge of decommissioning and how do the legacy requirements of mega-projects of all kinds change the approach we take to projects today and in the future. [iii]
MPKH Live in collaboration with Bentley Systems and the University of Leeds, Faculty of Engineering, will bring together a panel of experts to explore this challenge. Each of the panelists will have seven minutes to present their perspective on the questions raised above before we throw the event open for questions and feedback from the live audience in the Bentley Academy and the audience following the webinar on the internet.
We plan to be at the event on 30th April – we hope you see you there.