When a nuclear power company decides to close their power plant immediately, decommissioning follows. This is done by removing the plant from service and reducing harmful radioactivity that permits property release. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) implements strict rules regarding power plant decommissioning, which involves clean-up of radioactive fuel or contaminated plant systems.
According to the International Energy Agency, over 200 reactors will face decommissioning during the next 25 years. With the help of new technology and the industry’s best practices, the process faces smoother operations.
Background on operating reactors
The average lifespan of operating reactors in the U.S. reaches more than 35 years. Since 1996, the country did not sell any new nuclear reactor online but permanently removed 5 from service during the past 3 years. Despite power plants possessing 40-year-old operating licenses with additional 20 years, some still face shut downs due to financial problems and other reasons.
The average age of international power plants does not significantly fall behind in the US. Majority of the world’s 438 reactors are over 30 years old. Countries such as Switzerland and Germany plan to remove nuclear power out of their energy options.
How plants develop a plan
Plants planning nuclear material decommissioning consider their facility’s physical condition, current configuration, and level of radioactive contamination. Decommissioning specialists get the details from the company’s historical records and refine using a standard measurement program.
Power plants also develop a material inventory for the site. They also consider two of the most important decommissioning cost improvements: contamination levels and quantity of contaminated material.
Using technological improvements
Currently, important progress occurs in the field of power plant decommissioning. Technology plays a vital role by offering resources such as 3D computer-aided design, wireless communications, data sharing, and pattern recognition. Artificial intelligence can also allow machines to recognize the plant’s changing layout through 3D models.
Decommissioning is up for numerous changes. With proper cost-effective management and the help of technology, power plant decommissioning faces a smoother process in the future.