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Decommissioning of nuclear installations

 

Decommissioning refers to the administrative and technical actions taken to remove all or some of the regulatory controls from an authorized facility so the facility and its site can be reused. Decommissioning includes activities such as planning, physical and radiological characterization, facility and site decontamination, dismantling, and materials management.

Decommissioning is a normal part of a nuclear facility’s lifetime and needs to be considered at the earliest stages of its development. As part of a facility’s initial authorization, a decommissioning plan is developed that demonstrates the feasibility of decommissioning and provides assurance that provisions are in place to cover the associated costs. At the final shutdown, a final decommissioning plan is prepared that describes in detail the decommissioning strategy, how the facility will be safely dismantled, how radiation protection of workers and the public is ensured, how environmental impacts are addressed, how materials – radioactive and non-radioactive – are to be managed, and how the regulatory authorization for the facility and site are to be terminated.

Planning and implementing a decommissioning project is a complex and multi-disciplinary process that involves both technical and non-technical aspects and requires timely and effective management. A fundamental requirement of decommissioning safety is the protection of workers and the public against radiation, now and in the future. It also includes the management of industrial and non-radiological hazards and protection of the environment during project implementation and afterwards.

The IAEA assists its Member States in their efforts to plan and implement the decommissioning of nuclear installations and other facilities utilizing radioactive material in accordance with the IAEA Safety Standards. The Agency develops and maintains internationally approved safety standards that establish safety requirements for the decommissioning process. They also provide guidance on the selection of decommissioning strategies; preparation of decommissioning plans; implementation of decommissioning projects; and the release of materials, structures and sites from regulatory control.

The IAEA supports the sharing of knowledge, good practices and technical information on decommissioning among Member States. For this purpose, it publishes reports on technical and safety-related aspects, organizes meetings of experts, collaborative projects, scientific exchanges, training courses and workshops. These activities are supported by web-based resources such as databases, which provide information on nuclear facility characteristics and on inventories of spent fuel and radioactive waste. The Agency also maintains an eLearning platform that contains lectures and presentations on spent fuel and radioactive waste management, decommissioning and environmental remediation.

The IAEA’s International Decommissioning Network (IDN) provides a forum for interaction and collaboration between professionals involved in decommissioning activities. Sharing of  experiences and knowledge from decommissioning projects is facilitated through a wiki-based information resource maintained by the IDN. An additional service to Member States concerns peer review and advisory services, such as ARTEMIS, providing expert reviews of decommissioning programmes, of radioactive waste and spent fuel management programmes, and of environmental remediation programmes.

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