Belgium started its nuclear programme quite early. The first installations were constructed in the fifties, and presently, more than 55% of the Belgian electricity production is provided by nuclear power plants. After 30 years of nuclear experience, Belgium started decommissioning of nuclear facilities in the eighties with two main projects: the BR3-PWR plant and the Eurochemic reprocessing plant. The BR3-decommissioning project is carried out at the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre, while the decommissioning of the former Eurochemic reprocessing plant is managed and operated by Belgoprocess n.v., which is also operating the centralised waste treatment facilities and the interim storage for Belgian radioactive waste.
Some fundamental principles have to be considered for the management of materials resulting from the decommissioning of nuclear installations, equipment and/or components, mainly based on the guidelines of the “IAEA-Safety Fundamentals. The Principles of Radioactive Waste Management. Safety Series No. 111-F, IAEA, Vienna, 1995” with respect to radioactive waste management. Two of the fundamental principles indicated in this document are specifically dealing with the strategy for the management of materials from decommissioning, “Generation of radioactive waste shall be kept to the minimum practicable” (seventh principle), and “Radioactive waste shall be managed in such a way that it will not impose undue burdens on future generations” (fifth principle).
Based on these fundamental principles, Belgoprocess has made a straightforward choice for a strategy with minimisation of the amount of materials to be managed as radioactive waste. This objective is obtained through the use of advanced decontamination techniques and the unconditional release of decontaminated materials. Unconditionally released materials are recycled, such as i.e., metal materials that are removed to conventional melting facilities, or are removed to conventional industrial disposal sites if they have no remaining value. In order to achieve these objectives, Belgoprocess uses techniques and equipment that enable the high degrees of decontamination to be obtained, while based on commercially available technology. The paper highlights the specific Belgoprocess approach in this area.