The Thetis research reactor on the site of the Nuclear Sciences Institute of the Ghent University has been in operation from 1967 until December 2003. This light-water moderated graphite-reflected low-enriched uranium pool-type reactor has been used for various purposes e.g. the production of radio-isotopes and activation analyses. During the first years its core power was 15 kW. In the early ’70, a core enlargement allowed for operation at typically 150 kW, while the maximum was allowed to be 250 kW.
In September 2007, Ghent University entrusted to SCK•CEN the management of the back-end of the spent fuel and the decommissioning of the reactor. In 2010, the spent fuel was removed from the reactor and transported to Belgoprocess for cementation in 400 l drums and interim storage awaiting final disposal. This activity allows tackling the decommissioning of the reactor. The objective is to complete its decommissioning by the end of 2014.
In the framework of the decommissioning of the Thetis reactor, SCK•CEN set-up the final decommissioning plan and the decommissioning licensing file. These documents include among others a radiological inventory of the reactor. The graphite moderator blocks, the control and the safety pates, the liner of the pool were modeled to assess the activation products (isotopic vector and intensity). At the end of the unloading of the reactor in 2010 a brief mapping of the equipment’s and internals of the reactor pool was performed. In 2012, we realized a more detailed mapping. These results confirmed those performed earlier and allowed to confirm the assumptions made in the final decommissioning plan.
We set-up the terms of reference for the first decommissioning phase of the reactor namely the dismantling of the reactor i.e. reactor pool, circuits and rabbit system, equipment’s and ventilation ducts. The removal of asbestos is also included into this phase. We conducted the selection process and the awarding of this decommissioning job. We gained the decommissioning license in May 2012.
We also prepared the software tool allowing managing the decommissioning project by updating the inventory and recording the progress, the characterization measurements and the material and waste production. This software allows also to trace all the material streams and to report to the Authorities. This software is a simplified release of the ones developed by SCK•CEN in the framework of other decommissioning projects like BR3 and Belgonucleaire.
The dismantling of the reactor i.e. reactor pool, circuits and rabbit system, will be performed in 2013. In 2014, it is planned to map all the surfaces of the infrastructure to highlight residual contamination of floor, walls and ceiling. The contaminated surfaces will be decontaminated and controlled. The objective is to reach the free release of the reactor building and laboratories by the end of 2014.