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Reducing Radioactive Waste From Nuclear Facility Decommissioning

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Margarita Herranz, professor of nuclear engineering at the UPV / EHU, is the leader of one of the working groups of the European project H2020 INSIDER. The objective of the project is to improve the management of contaminated materials by proposing a methodology that allows defining and selecting the best scenarios for decommissioning, decommissioning and remediation of nuclear facilities, so that they produce well-characterized waste for which storage routes are clearly identified. and elimination.

In recent years, a phase of dismantling nuclear power plants and installations has been entered, especially in Europe. In 2015, 156 nuclear power plant reactors worldwide were shutdown or under dismantling, and by 2050 more than half of the current 400 GW nuclear capacity worldwide is slated to be decommissioned. “In Europe, this will result in an increase in radioactive waste, while current storage plants have limited capacity. Optimizing this management is very important ”, indicates the UPV / EHU professor Margarita Herranz .

The European H2020 INSIDER project - with financing of almost five million euros for four years - addresses the definition of the best strategy to optimize the production of radioactive waste during the dismantling of nuclear facilities and focuses on the characterization strategy and the improvements in the methodology, especially for restricted environments, seeking to propose new and better solutions for the dismantling of nuclear and radioactive facilities, including power plants and the remediation of the environment, also considering post-accidental situations.

On-site measurements in restricted environments

“The dismantling of this type of facility is a very expensive process, waste takes up a lot of space and, furthermore, people do not like having such repositories nearby. And if we also talk about dismantling many nuclear facilities, it is very important to define what has to be considered radioactive waste within a nuclear power plant and what not, because the cost of managing this waste increases considerably depending on its level of activity. tons and tons of waste can be removed from the dismantling of a nuclear power plant ”, explains the researcher from the Department of Nuclear Engineering and Fluid Mechanicsof the UPV / EHU. Although the dismantles carried out so far have exhaustively complied with current regulations, “a very important part of what has been considered nuclear and radioactive waste is not really,” he says. You are sinning in excess in that sense. ”

Margarita Herranz, leader of the working group that is in charge of the organization and realization of measurements in situ and subsequent analysis of the results, affirms that “it is essential to optimize the measurements of radioactivity in situ of walls, partitions, machinery, metal shields, etc. ., due to the infeasibility of transferring them, in their entirety, to a laboratory ”. It should be noted that these are difficult measurements, "because you have to find what equipment is adapted to be used and obtain good results depending on the atmosphere in each environment: radiation, temperature, pressure, humidity, etc.". In this context, "we have defined what are the restrictive environments from the point of view of in situ measurements in nuclear and radioactive facilities, How do these restrictions affect the type of equipment to be used and how can these restrictions affect the results or the evaluation of the results that are going to be obtained ”, he details. They also work on the description of different areas of a nuclear / radioactive facility and the problems that may exist in them, as well as recommendations on the types of instrumentation to be used in each of those areas.

Herranz affirms that this project “contributes to optimizing the dismantling processes, since the public perception of these processes and these systems improves. In other words, demonstrate that they are controlled and that they are working on it. There is a lot of technology at the service of that goal. It is basically a social objective ”. Within the framework of the European INSIDER project, numerous scientific articles are being published, with which an extensive methodological guide is disclosed, which can be accessed through the INSIDER website . The project hopes to perfect EU policy: "We hope that this work ends up influencing the development of international regulations," concludes the researcher.

Classification and categorization of the constrained environments in nuclear/radiological installations under decommissioning and dismantling processes. Frederic Aspe et al. Progress in Nuclear Energy, Volume 124, June 2020, 103347, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pnucene.2020.103347.

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