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IAEA Designates New Collaborating Centre in France for Graphite Reactor Decommissioning


Sylvain Granger, Director of EDF DP2D, Mikhail Chudakov, IAEA Deputy Director General, and His Excellency Xavier Sticker, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations in Vienna and the IAEA, during the ceremony in Vienna on 23 September 2021. (Photo: IAEA)

The IAEA and Electricité de France’s Decommissioning and Waste Management Directorate (EDF DP2D) have agreed to work together to help countries to strengthen technology and human resources development for decommissioning nuclear power reactors that contain significant amounts of irradiated graphite. Graphite, which becomes a long-lived radioactive waste after its use in a nuclear reactor, is used to control nuclear chain reactions and avoid reactor overheating.

The agreement, valid until 2025, designates EDF DP2D Graphite Reactor Decommissioning Demonstrator as an IAEA Collaborating Centre, while formalizing and expanding cooperation between EDF DP2D and IAEA.  

“Graphite, which has been used as a moderator and reflector of neutrons in more than 100 nuclear power plants and other nuclear facilities, presents significant dismantling and management challenges. As many of these plants and facilities are now quite old, with some already shutdown, their decommissioning is becoming an increasingly important issue for a number of IAEA Member States,” said Mikhail Chudakov, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Energy. “I’m pleased that this new IAEA Collaborating Centre will be able to support many decommissioning projects with technical guidance and solutions and related knowledge sharing.”

The EDF DP2D Graphite Reactor Decommissioning Demonstrator will be constructed near Chinon in central France and used as the IAEA Collaborating Centre for programme and strategy definition for graphite reactor decommissioning. The facility will be used to test, improve and optimize innovative robotic and remote handling technologies, physical tests on representative full scale mock-ups as well as simulators and associated digital models. Technologies will subsequently be made available to experts from all IAEA Member States.

“This innovative facility will be used to steer international cooperation, knowledge transfer through generations and to train and qualify the operators,” said Sylvain Granger, Director of EDF Group Decommissioning and Waste Management Directorate, during a ceremony at the IAEA’s Vienna headquarters last week. “The Graphite Reactor Decommissioning Demonstrator will constitute an efficient, innovative answer to a common global issue, fostering sustainable improvement, education and share of experiences. The Collaborating Centre recognition will further anchor the long tradition of cooperation that unites EDF, France and the IAEA."

Representatives of organizations involved in planning and implementing decommissioning and dismantling (D&D) projects of graphite reactors will be able to share knowledge, experiences and know-how, including on activities such as:

  • Defining a risk mitigation programme and dismantling strategy and associated decommissioning programme and project management;
  • Checking the feasibility of new decommissioning scenarios, including alternative solutions to face unexpected situations;
  • Performing physical realistic tests for specific issues regarding the dismantling of graphite reactors e.g., concrete cutting tool and methodology development;
  • Designing representative mock-ups to assess, improve and qualify dismantling tools, including virtual reality and robotics, and use of 3D modelling based on on-site 3D scanning;
  • Implementing automated means, remote handling tools and testing the efficiency of cutting tools on real scale mock-up, adapt and adjusting to identified needs.

“International cooperation, with the support of IAEA collaborating centres such as the one hosted by EDF, is key to address the challenges ahead for the decommissioning of nuclear power plants”, said His Excellency Mr Xavier Sticker, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations in Vienna and the IAEA.

IAEA Collaborating Centres

To promote the peaceful use of nuclear technologies, the IAEA collaborates with designated institutions around the world. Through the Collaborating Centres network, these organizations in Member States can assist the IAEA by undertaking original research and development and training relating to nuclear science, technologies and their safe and secure applications. There are currently 55 active Collaborating Centres worldwide, with 12 in the area of nuclear energy.

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