Decommissioning of nuclear research facilities represents many challenges. Many of the existing facilities are old and were designed at a time when different requirements for construction, management, information exchange and decommissioning plans were applied. In several Nordic countries, there is a need for the development of skills and competence to be able to handle these challenges as well as the development of special guidelines to support effective regulation and supervision during the decommissioning of the nuclear research facilities. Therefore, it will be useful to have a broader Nordic dialogue and further co-operation on dealing with common challenges.
High interest to the workshop
The Nordic decommisioning workshop gathered over 50 committed participants from Sweden, Finland, Denmark, UK and Norway. Participants represented regulatory authorities, consultancies, research institutions and operators of nuclear research facilities.
The main focus of the workshop was decommissioning of nuclear research facilities and waste management in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland. A series of very good presentations on the decommisioning programs in Finland, Sweden and Norway showed that challenges faced by all the countries are similar and there is a great potential for learning from one another.
Scientific support is needed
The participants agreed that it is very important to have scientific support behind the regulatory requirements and decisions, which must be prepared with a focus on:
- Characterization of waste and storage or disposal sites.
- Independent measurements and supervisory assessments that support decontamination and decommissioning.
- Emissions of radioactive substances to the atmosphere and the surrounding environment.
- Treatment, temporary storage and final disposal of radioactive waste.
At the same time, it is important to apply a principle of optimization, and ensure good risk communication and effective dialogue with all those who are most affected by the decisions to be made. The experiences from other countries also shows that planning phase is quite long in relation to the implementation phase, and the lack of solutions of handling the waste can cause delays and even stop of the decommissioning work.
The future of Nordic collaboration
The Nordic countries have a long tradition of co-operation on research activities and projects related to the development and application of nuclear technologies. The countries share common challenges associated with the decommissioning of research facilities and the management of their nuclear legacies. Presentations and discussions at the workshop have emphasized the need for new thinking in relation to policies and strategies for comprehensive risk assessments, which include both radiological, chemical and conventional risk. In addition, there is a need for methods to characterize old waste, environmental impact assessments and constructive dialogues with all affected parties.
Discussions in working groups showed good understanding and consistency in which key issues are to be dealt with in the Norwegian nuclear program. The importance of having a common big picture, clear roles and clear expectations for each step of a national decommissioning program was emphasized.
The workshop participants expressed a profound interest to continue the dialogue and co-operation through joint projects between the Nordic countries in this area. Possible topics and areas of collaboration will be addressed in more detail in the report from the workshop, which will be published during the spring of 2021.