Waste Technology Section

Decommissioning of Facilities - Assistance to Member States


Publications address both technological aspects of decommissioning, including techniques for measuring levels of radioactivity, and decontamination and dismantling of plant and structures, as well as non-technological aspects such as planning, cost estimation and project management.

The decommissioning publications can be downloaded on the publications page, where the publications are organised according to the following themes:

  • Technology;
  • Management;
  • Implementation;
  • Development; and
  • Special Topics.

Published in 2014

Published in 2013

Published in 2012

Published in 2011

Publications under Preparation

Decommissioning of Pool-like Facilities

Nearly all nuclear reactors and many other nuclear fuel cycle facilities e.g. reprocessing plants, use pools (ponds). A common feature is to store spent fuel during and beyond facilities’ operational lifetimes. In addition to spent fuel ponds, there are other pool-type facilities, e.g. research reactors, which become contaminated during their operational lifetime. It is estimated that nuclear facility ponds amount to well over a thousand worldwide.

Over a service lifetime that can reach decades, pond floors, walls, covers and auxiliary systems become contaminated as the result of surface deposition of radioactive corrosion and fission products and penetration of contamination. In some cases contamination may penetrate to building foundations, underlying ground or even impact on groundwater. Neutron activation of pool structures is also a concrete possibility in reactors.

In the longer term, this becomes a decommissioning issue. No systematic decontamination/dismantling strategies/technologies exist yet for contaminated ponds although cases of pond decommissioning have been sporadically described in the technical literature. It should be noted that this issue is quite common also in developing countries due to the ubiquitous presence of these facilities. An IAEA document has been launched on this subject.[top]

Management of Human Resources during Decommissioning with a Focus on Motivation Aspects

Over the years there has been increasing attention paid to the organisational and human factors that are an integral part of a nuclear organisation, contributing to its successes and failure in both safety and business performance. With motivated staff it is not only levels of output that improves, motivated staff work to higher standards of quality as they care what they are doing, learn faster and have more ideas. They are less likely to be involved in accidents, make mistakes or get involved in conflicts.

The IAEA has published guidance on all aspects of organisational and human factors along with the consideration of nuclear safety culture. This document (in an early phase of elaboration) forms part of this suite of guidance, focusing on the motivational factors that directly affect the safe and successful decommissioning of nuclear facilities.[top]

Decommissioning – Managing the Unexpected

Inevitably, planning for and implementing nuclear decommissioning faces a number of unexpected events. This is due to factors such as lack of construction and operational details (e.g. as-built drawings), inadequate records, poor radiological characterization, inaccessible or hazardous environments, uncertainties in workers’ skills, unexpected external events, human errors etc.

This report explores the implications of decommissioning with unexpected events and the trade-off between activities to reduce them and factors militating against any such extra work. Practical guidance in planning and management of decommissioning taking into account unexpected events is provided. The report evaluates the experience and lessons learned in tackling decommissioning with unexpected events (unknowns) and tries to address an organizational and managerial area of decommissioning that is often neglected. Poor consideration of and lack of contingencies to tackle unexpected events may result into extra costs and delays and may incur safety concerns.[top]

Decommissioning of Particle Accelerators

Nearly all Member States use particle accelerators for medical industrial and research applications. Over a service lifetime that can reach decades, accelerators become activated through the impact of (primary and secondary) particles on equipment and structures. Surface contamination may result from deposition of radioactive substances e.g. aerosols on accelerator components and nearby structures. In a longer term, this is a decommissioning issue. Noteworthy, the radioactive inventory – and the scale of decommissioning – are strongly dependent on the type of the accelerators, ranging from almost nil to significant.

Although cases of accelerator decommissioning have been sporadically described in the technical literature, no systematic treatment of decontamination/dismantling strategies/technologies for all types of accelerators is available. The report is intended to collect information on experience and lessons learned from implementation of decommissioning projects for particle accelerators. Based on this information, and highlighting typical issues and concerns, the report will provide practical guidance for all those having a role in this process.[top]

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