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IAEA Kicks Off International Project on Completion of Decommissioning

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Meeting participants discussing final stages of decommissioning. (C. Villarreal Silva/IAEA)

A new IAEA-led initiative to support national authorities in the decommissioning of shutdown nuclear power plants and other nuclear installations was launched during a meeting held 24-28 September in Vienna. 

The three-year project will result in a systematic overview of the global experience in defining the desired final status of decommissioning, demonstrating compliance with end-state criteria, and defining and implementing any necessary measures and controls after the end of decommissioning. The project will also contribute to an update of an IAEA Safety Guide on Release of Sites from Regulatory Control on Termination of Practices

More than 40 professionals from 29 Member States exchanged experiences and good practices on how to finalize decommissioning of a nuclear facility and make the site available for other purposes. 

About 170 nuclear power reactors have been shut down. Of these, 17 have been fully decommissioned and over 50 are being dismantled. 

Though significant progress has been made in development of techniques and equipment to safely decommission nuclear facilities, deciding what the end state of decommissioning should be remains a challenge for operators, regulatory authorities and policy makers. Technical, regulatory and social aspects, including residual radioactivity and other hazards also have to be considered when deciding on the criteria for safe site re-use.

The initiative, called International Project on Completion of Decommissioning (COMDEC) aims to foster progress in this area. 

“Experience of successful completion of decommissioning is limited to a small number of countries and many countries still have challenges in defining and successfully achieving decommissioning end states. Thus, the COMDEC project is an important initiative that will assist countries,” said meeting participant Joerg Kaulard, Managing Director at Brenk Systemplanung GmbH in Germany.

In addition to collating Member State experiences, the meeting established three working groups - one focusing on defining the end state, one on delivering the end state and one on related regulatory matters - and prepared a workplan for the project, which concludes in 2021. A project report will be disseminated through the IAEA’s International Decommissioning Network. 

“In addition to formulating guidance, the project will also establish a ‘community of practice’ devoted to the decommissioning field, thereby fostering collaboration among professionals and organizations involved in decommissioning,” said IAEA Waste Safety Specialist Vladan Ljubenov. “This will complement other IAEA efforts to support collaboration in specific fields.”
 

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