The economic, environmental, social and societal constraints have pushed the nuclear industry to develop new dismantling and decommissioning (D&D) techniques in order to meet the current industrial requirements. Since 5 years, AREVA, in partnership with Air Liquide, has been working on a new cryogenic solution that can be used to achieve the main important D&D operations (i.e. cutting, surface decontamination and concrete scabbling). This solution, called NiThrow™, is based on the Nitrocision LLC concept and consists in spraying highly pressurized liquid nitrogen (3500 bar) at a very low temperature (−140°C) onto a surface. The main advantage in using liquid nitrogen instead of water is due to its rapid conversion into gaseous nitrogen that will avoid the generation of liquid effluent. The preliminary trials made in France at Saint Ouen l’Aumône and at the AREVA SICN facility by using NiThrow™ appeared to be very interesting and promising in terms of effectiveness, reduction of the dosimetry (i.e. ALARA principle) and adaptability to the different types of surfaces and materials to be treated. On an other hand, they also highlighted a couple of defects like a lack of reliability that is not compatible with a safety use in a nuclear environment.
In 2009, with the aim of fixing all these issues, AREVA decided to start an extensive R&D program. This work has been essentially focused on the lancing tool, the insulation and the flexibility of the liquid nitrogen distribution network, but also on the design and the manufacturing of a waste collection unit and a dedicated carrier. Today, these R&D efforts have been totally completed. and resulted to the publication of 3 patents. Also, the collaboration, with Air Liquide and the American company Conco allows AREVA to propose to its customers a safe and reliable solution for their cleaning operations in France and all over the world.