Nuclear Power Plants

Decommissioning Nuclear Power Plants

When decommissioning nuclear power plants, stringent regulations outlining requirements and processes must be followed to ensure they are decommissioned safely.

To close a nuclear power plant, the facility must be decontaminated to reduce the residual radioactivity to levels which are classified as safe. Other decommissioning works involve dismantling structures safely, removing contaminated materials and disposal at appropriate facilities ready to release the property for future use.

Reasons for Shutdowns

There are three main categories which can cause a nuclear power plant to shut down:

  1. Experimental: early commercial types and commercial units whose continued operation was no longer justified, usually for economic reasons.
  2. Accidents or incidents: Units can be closed following an accident or serious incident (not necessarily to the reactor itself) where repair was not economically justified.
  3. Regulatory impediment: Units which can be closed prematurely by political decisions or due to regulatory impediment without clear or significant economic or technical justification.

The Decommissioning Process

The decommissioning process involves:

  • Removal of the used nuclear fuel from the reactor
  • Dismantling systems and components containing radioactive products such as the reactor vessel
  • Cleaning up or dismantling contaminated material from the facility

Disposal of the contaminated materials can be done by either decontamination on site or by being removed completely and shipped to a waste processing storage/disposal facility.

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