When decommissioning nuclear installations, large quantities of metal components are produced as well as significant amounts of other radioactive materials, which mostly show low surface contamination. Having been used or having been brought for a while in a controlled area marks them as ‘suspected material’. In view of the very high costs for radioactive waste processing and disposal, alternatives have been considered, and much effort has gone to recycling through decontamination, melting and unconditional release of metals. In a broader context, recycling of materials can considered to be a first order ecological priority in order to limit the quantities of radioactive wastes for final disposal and to reduce the technical and economic problems involved with the management of radioactive wastes. It will help as well to make economic use of primary material and to conserve natural resources of basic material for future generations. In a demonstration programme, Belgoprocess has shown that it is economically interesting to decontaminate metal components to unconditional release levels using dry abrasive blasting techniques, the unit cost for decontamination being only 30% of the global cost for radioactive waste treatment, conditioning, storage and disposal. As a result, an industrial dry abrasive blasting unit was installed in the Belgoprocess central decontamination infrastructure. At the end of December 2006, more than 1,128 Mg of contaminated metal has been treated as well as 313 Mg of concrete blocks. The paper gives an overview of the experience relating to the decontamination of metal material and concrete blocks at the decommissioning of the Eurochemic reprocessing plant in Dessel, Belgium as well from the decontamination of concrete containers by abrasive blasting.

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