News story

International experts share decommissioning expertise

More than 35 international specialists gathered in Penrith to discuss improving the global nuclear community's response to dealing with damaged facilities.

International specialists at the NDA-hosted event in Penrith
International specialists at the NDA-hosted event in Penrith

Hosted by the NDA, the project was set up by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in the wake of the accident at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power station in Japan, but is also drawing lessons from decommissioning at other nuclear sites, including:

  • Al Tuwaitha nuclear site in Iraq, damaged during conflict
  • Three Mile Island Unit 2 in the US, damaged by a partial core melt
  • Chernobyl in Ukraine
  • the A1 reactor in Slovakia, damaged following incorrect insertion of a new fuel element

The workshop also looked at a number of historical facilities which can face similar challenges, including:

  • Sellafield’s First Generation Magnox Storage Pond (FGMSP)
  • the industrial Uranium Graphite Reactors in Russia
  • the redundant fuel cycle facilities at Marcoule, France

Three working groups are studying the above cases and their conclusions will feed in to a final report, providing guidance that could be deployed in the event of future accidents. Their focus is on the challenges faced by regulators, the technical challenges of managing physical and radiological hazards and the strategic decision-making processes.

Named DAROD (Decommissioning And Remediation of Damaged nuclear facilities), the project began in 2014 as a result of the IAEA’s Action Plan on Nuclear Safety, drawn up following the Fukushima-Daiichi accident.

John Rowat, from IAEA’s Department of Nuclear Safety and Security, said:

The purpose of DAROD is to identify where existing guidance for normal decommissioning and remediation can be adapted to situations involving damaged nuclear facilities, and to identify how member states might be better prepared to manage such situations in the future.

At the Penrith workshop, a special session was held on Sellafield’s FGMSP, introduced by Sellafield’s Head of Programme Delivery for Legacy Ponds, Dorothy Gradden, who gave an update on progress at the facilities. Delegates were also given an opportunity to tour the FGMSP, enabling them understand the challenges and see the progress at first hand.

John Mathieson, the NDA’s Head of International Relations, said:

The workshop brought together a diverse range of regulators and decommissioning practitioners from around the world, many of whom have first-hand experience of dealing with damaged nuclear facilities.

It was an honour for the UK and NDA to be asked to host this workshop for this important project, and the discussions were extremely valuable.

Published 7 November 2017