The R²D² Project
There are over 200 research reactors that have either not been in operation for a considerable period of time and that may never return to operation or are close to permanent shutdown. Many of these reactors are in state of limbo since countries may not have a decommissioning policy or prepared decommissioning plans for their nuclear facilities. The national legal and regulatory framework, the professional expertise or the funds to effectively implement a decommissioning project may also not be available.
The Agency has implemented a new approach to enhance the exchange of information and the lessons learned between countries that have actual decommissioning experience and those whose decommissioning programmes need to be developed. The approach is to hold workshops that provide “hands-on” experience to participants in an international demonstration project. This project would implement Agency safety standards and provide a model for other decommissioning projects.
- The project is intended to provide a platform that can be used for “hands-on” and practical training in activities related to safe decommissioning. It encompasses the whole range of decommissioning activities.
- It should be a focal point for the exchange of information, experience, education and training on regulatory requirements, decommissioning approaches and technologies.
- It should serve as a model for use in the decommissioning of research reactors in other countries and so enabling other countries to bring the national situations in line with international recommendations.
- The demonstration of the interaction between the parties involved is an important issue. This includes in particular the regulatory body, the operator, any contractors, the organisations responsible for the processing, transport and disposal of radioactive waste, the radiation protection personnel, decontamination and dismantling specialists, administrative personnel, as well as politicians and decision makers.
Originally the Philippine Research Reactor (PRR-1) was intended to be used as a model to demonstrate the activities needed in the decommissioning of a research reactor. PRR-1 is a 3 MW TRIGA ("Training, Research, Isotopes, General Atomics") reactor, a class of small research reactors designed and manufactured by General Atomics of the USA. This reactor is located in Quezon City (Metro Manila) and operated by the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI - formerly Philippine Atomic Energy Commission). The first criticality was achieved in August 1963. The restart of the reactor after conversion to 3 MW happened in 1988. Shortly after that, the reactor was shut down for pool and other repairs which were never finished. In 2002, it was decided to terminate the repairs and decommission the reactor.
The Agency intended to use the PRR-1 as the model for the demonstration of decommissioning within the R²D² Project. A series of workshops was planned to be held at this facility within a time period of approximately 6 years. The PRR-1 decommissioning schedule did not correlate with the R²D² Project schedule and therefore, other facilities were needed to host the actual demonstration workshops. Australia, Germany, Denmark and Romania graciously hosted selected workshops.
At present, the ‘Planning Phase’ of the Project is nearing completion. The ‘Implementation Phase” will follow and will include actual dismantling exercises. The implementation of this part of the Project would benefit from a demonstration of these decommissioning activities at one facility. The Agency continues to search for a facility to host these workshops, not only for selected workshops, but if possible, the entire suite of workshops.
The focus of the Project is on demonstrating the decommissioning of a research reactor. The scope includes all aspects of the decommissioning process, from establishing a legal and regulatory infrastructure to the final release of the facility from regulatory control.
The project is not intended to serve as a research and development platform for new technologies. Only commercially available technologies would be considered for incorporation into this Project.
Workshops and training courses would be held at a facility which would serve as a teaching laboratory for participants. The participants would receive training through lectures and practical insights into the matters at the given site. They would have to apply the information received by resolving site-specific, practical tasks.
It is expected that experts from participating countries will calibrate their national situations against international recommendations provided in the lectures and demonstrations during the Project. They are expected to help improving the national situation and report on progress in the workshops. It is regarded as a minimum that a national legal and regulatory framework with a clear separation of regulatory and operational organisations is in place and that a decommissioning plan is available for each nuclear facility.
An initial workplan was developed when the Project was implemented. The first part of the workshops is targetet at infrastructure, planning and licensing issues. The second part targets the actual implementation of decontamination and dismantling activities. The Project commenced in June 2006 and was expected to take about 6 years. The activities carried out so far followed the sequence of events given in this workplan. For various reasons including funding issues, the schedule of the workshop implementation has been revised. Additional workshops on “transition” and “safety assessment” were added to the workplan so as to provide a more comprehensive programme. The workshop materials, in particular the presentations given by international experts, the practical exercises and the national reports were distributed to the workshop participants, via CD/DVD at the end of each workshop. 1
The Project is expected to capture lessons learned from the activities that need to be performed in a decommissioning process and then provide access to this material to as many people as possible. Upon completion of the Project the following material should be available:
- A set of information papers and Agency documents to share lessons learned
- Information for use in updating Agency safety standards and technical documents
- A set of safety related documents (i.e., decommissioning plan, environmental impact assessment, safety analysis report, health and safety plan, cost estimate, etc.) for use as models by those who are beginning the decommissioning process
- The contact details of experts who can provide expertise
The above would serve as a model for other research reactor decommissioning projects.
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