European Regional Decommissioning Project Ends with Record Implementation Amid Acclaim from Participants


Final Meeting of RER/3/009 , IAEA,
13-15 December 2011

22 December 2011 -- Over the past three years, the IAEA regional project for decommissioning planning in Europe (RER/3/009) has delivered more than 40 training events to over 300 participants as part of the Agency’s Technical Cooperation Programme. The Project comprised courses, workshop and group scientific visits as key activities.

Continuing from its predecessor RER/3/005 (2007-2008) and initially focussing on the preparation of preliminary decommissioning plans for nuclear power plants and research reactors in Eastern Europe, the project developed during its 3-year term to address all aspects of planning and implementing decommissioning of nuclear facilities; it attracted participants from all over the world.

RER/3/009 concluded at the end of 2011 and the final meeting was held at the IAEA on 13-15 December 2011. In a business increasingly dominated by commercial organizations, the participants in this IAEA Project demonstrated their ability to "get on with the job".

Among Major Achievements of special note was that all reactors in the participating countries have at least a Preliminary Decommissioning Plan in place. In many Member States, decommissioning cost estimates are in progress or completed, and funding mechanisms have been established and funds are being collected.

But success came with growing pains: Lessons learned spanned a broad range of technical, safety, managerial, and socio-economic factors. Ending generation or research at a facility is often traumatic, so the management of change is a key aspect of the transition and subsequent decommissioning. Timely changes to the management structure can help preserve the essential organizational safety culture.

Much progress was made by the participants in the course of the Project. "This is a model project from which the whole Agency can learn", noted Paul Dinner, former IAEA Technical Officer with the Project. "The participants have become confident and self-reliant; this is now a true network of professionals willing and able to assist each other in solving the most difficult technical problems".

"RER/3/009 has been a contributing factor to the successful establishment of our decommissioning project", stated Fedor Aparkin of Concern Rosenergoatom in the Russian Federation.

Anastasia Savidou, of Demokritos National Centre for Scientific Research in Greece, noted the value of the events organized by the Agency through the Project. "The fruitful exchange of experience between the participants made it possible for the staff of my Institute to successfully plan and execute decommissioning related tasks at our facility", Ms Savidou said.

"The International Decommissioning Network (IDN), which is a joint initiative of the IAEA Departments of Nuclear Energy, Nuclear Safety and Security, and Technical Co-operation, has played an important role in facilitating training activities by finding host organisations from its members", said Patrick O’Sullivan, IDN Scientific Secretary and Technical Officer of the Project. The Project benefited from direct assistance of Member States with developed decommissioning programmes, and there were little or no hosting cost to the IAEA.

Vladan Ljubenov, Technical Officer of the Project and a waste safety specialist in the Department of Nuclear Safety, attributed a measure of the Project’s success to the opportunities for the participants to observe equipment demonstrations and actual decommissioning activities in the field. "Field experiences and exercises offered by those with developed decommissioning programmes provided both regulators and operators with a realistic understanding of the technical challenges posed and the appropriate safety measures to address them", Mr Ljubenov stated.

Acknowledging the Project’s success and the engagement of its participants in the increasingly difficult challenge of implementing decommissioning in the field, the IAEA will offer a further four-year project through the Department of Technical Co-operation (TC). The new project will be based in Europe and focus on decommissioning implementation. Also, an Inter-regional TC Project on decommissioning and environmental remediation will help spread the lessons learned in RER/3/009 to all regions of the world.

"I am very optimistic about the future – we have good momentum and I believe the participants in this Project are poised to achieve great things in their home organizations", Mykola Kurylchyk, the TC Project Management Officer summed up his views of the future.

Contact: M.Kurylchuk@iaea.org

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