Power nuclear reactors dismantling challenges and needs

The forthcoming power reactor decommissioning represents an immense challenge

Only a few of the nuclear power reactors permanently shut down
(176 reactors worldwide of which 86 in Western Europe and 23 in Central and Eastern Europe according to IAEA PRIS database), have been fully decommissioned so far, i.e. when the site has been released from the regulatory control.

Considering the number of the power reactors to be decommissioned located in Europe, the European Union has the opportunity to take the leadership in the implementation of the immediate dismantling strategy. This could be achieved only by using the best practices to improve the dismantling processes, particularly cutting which is a key operation, in terms of safety, radiation protection, radioactive waste generated, time and cost.


“Hence, there is a powerful economic incentive to fund development and uptake of more efficient industrial applicable technologies.”

The LD-SAFE project proposes the development of an efficient technology widely known and used in the manufacturing industry, the laser cutting technology, to make it applicable to the dismantling of power nuclear reactor. This technology is expected to be more efficient than the conventional techniques currently used (PAC, AWJC or mechanical cutting) for in air or underwater segmentation of highly radioactive components of power nuclear reactors. The advantages of the laser cutting technology to address the specific challenges of nuclear research facilities and nuclear fuel cycle facilities have been already demonstrated through few completed projects. Moreover, the applicability of the technology to the retrieval of Fukushima Daiichi fuel debris is being developed through related R&D activities, managed by three partners of this project. The LD-SAFE project will contribute to enhance the applicability of the laser cutting technology to all nuclear facilities, in particular thanks to the developments proposed in the field of safety assessment (potential impact of residual laser beam and generation of gases and aerosols).

The nuclear industry has not adequately exploited or implemented current technological capabilities.

The developments proposed by the LD-SAFE project aim at enabling the use of the laser cutting technology, with which 100% of the works can be carried out remotely because no maintenance and no wear part replacement are needed in controlled (nuclear) area. In addition, because the laser cutting technology is versatile, it is expected that it could be suitable for large scope of cutting works and thus avoid hands on works. With respect to replacement of outdated technology, it is the purpose of the LD-SAFE project to provide tools and data which will make possible the replacement of conventional techniques used for nuclear dismantling. In particular, it is planned within the project to demonstrate that laser cutting is as fast as plasma arc cutting, but cleaner and thus safer.

“The roadmap for decommissioning research is going to provide guidance on the mid-term steps.”

EU-SHARE project (Project #847626) will provide Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) and Roadmap of potential collaborative actions-based needs from the decommissioning community and on state of the art of research. SRA and Road Map will be provided by the end of 2021, while LD-SAFE will still be running. LD-SAFE project team will be in contact with SHARE project team during 1.5 years when the 2 projects will wok concurrently. Therefore, first results of LD-SAFE could possibly be an input to SHARE road map and SHARE could possibly identify additional needs for LD SAFE. Workshops with stakeholders of both projects could be partly organised in common in 2021.

“The challenge is to capitalize European experience, make more effort on innovation.”

The LD-SAFE consortium is a strong partnership of industrials (4) and leading European research centres (2 RTOs) with extensive track-records in the field of decommissioning of nuclear facilities and related thematic. The overall is made of 6 partners coming from 4 European countries. The LD-SAFE consortium covers the whole value chain of the decommissioning of nuclear facilities.