Decommissioning of nuclear power plants generates large volumes of radioactive or potentially radioactive waste. The proper management of the dismantling waste plays an important role for the time needed for the dismantling phase and thus is critical to the decommissioning cost.
An efficient and thorough process for inventorying, characterization and categorization of the waste provides a sound basis for the planning process. As part of comprehensive decommissioning studies for Nordic NPPs, Westinghouse has developed the decommissioning inventories that have been used for estimations of the duration of specific work packages and the corresponding costs. As part of creating the design basis for a national repository for decommissioning waste, the total production of different categories of waste packages has also been predicted. Studsvik has developed a risk based concept for categorization and handling of the generated waste using six different categories with a span from extremely small risk for radiological contamination to high level waste. The two companies have recently joined their skills in the area of decommissioning on selected market in a consortium named ndcon to further strengthen the proposed process.
Depending on the risk for radiological contamination or the radiological properties and other properties of importance for waste management, treatment routes are proposed with well-defined and proven methods for on-site or off-site treatment, activity determination and conditioning. The system is based on a graded approach philosophy aiming for high confidence and sustainability, aiming for re-use and recycling where found applicable.
The objective is to establish a process where all dismantled material has a pre-determined treatment route. These routes should through measurements, categorization, treatment, conditioning, intermediate storage and final disposal be designed to provide a steady, un-disturbed flow of material to avoid interruptions. Bottle-necks in the process causes increased space requirements and will have negative impact on the project schedule, which increases not only the cost but also the dose exposure to personnel. For these reasons it is critical to create a process that transfers material into conditioned waste ready for disposal as quickly as possible.
To a certain extent the decommissioning program should be led by the waste management process. With the objective to reduce time for handling of dismantled material at site and to efficiently and environmental-friendly use waste management methods (clearance for re-use followed by clearance for recycling), the costs for the plant decommissioning could be reduced as well as time needed for performing the decommissioning project. Also, risks for delays would be reduced with a well-defined handling scheme which limits surprises. Delays are a major cost driver for decommissioning projects.