Contract signed for Swedish processing of Norwegian reactor fuel

28 January 2021

Sweden's Studsvik has signed a contract worth SEK134 million (USD16 million) with Norway's Institute for Energy Technology (IFE) for loading equipment, transport, handling equipment, examination and pre-treatment of nuclear fuel from the JEEP I research reactor at Kjeller. The fuel is currently held in an ageing storage facility at the site which does not meet current requirements.

Used nuclear fuel from the Jeep I reactor stored in Stavbrønnen in Kjeller (Image: IFE)

JEEP I was the first reactor in the Nordic region, built in partnership with the Netherlands. The heavy-water research reactor, with a thermal output of 350 kilowatts, operated between 1951 and 1967. It was used as a producer of radioisotopes, a source of neutrons for experimental physics, and a reactivity measuring facility. Used fuel from JEEP has been stored in the Stavbrønnen dry storage facility, which was built in 1952. IFE said that, although the facility is monitored and there are no signs of leaks, it does not meet current requirements for storage of this type of nuclear waste.

Under an agreement announced today, this fuel - comprising about 3 tonnes of metallically unstable uranium - will be transported to Sweden for processing before being returned to Norway for final disposal.

Norway plans to build a common final repository for all types of radioactive waste. Swedish waste and fuel management company Svensk Kärnbränslehantering AB yesterday announced that its SKB International subsidiary has been contracted to support Norwegian Nuclear Decommissioning (NND) in the work on a site selection process for a final repository. Last summer, NND carried out the procurement of a framework agreement for planning and communication strategies linked to a site selection process. The agreement runs for three to five years.

The contract with Studsvik will begin this year and be carried out in several phases. The first phase will include the design and construction of equipment to remove the fuel from the Stavbrønnen facility, and preparation of Studsvik's plant in Sweden for receiving it. The fuel will then be loaded into containers for transport to Sweden and treatment at Studsvik's facilities, provided the necessary agreements and permits to move the fuel and transport it from Norway to Sweden are issued by, among others, the Directorate for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Swedish authorities. When the necessary permits are in place, the work of transporting the fuel to Sweden will begin. Emptying the storage facility and moving the fuel are expected to take place in 2022-2024.

"It is very positive that Studsvik has been awarded the contract to treat the JEEP I fuel," said Joakim Lundström, head of Studsvik's Fuel and Materials Technology business area. "It is an important part of decommissioning the Norwegian nuclear research programme and we look forward to partnering with IFE and NND on this important project."

IFE President Nils Morten Huseby added, "The agreement means that the work of cleaning up the oldest and most challenging fuel from the pioneer era of nuclear technology has taken a big step forward. It has been IFE and NND's highest priority to find a solution for the management of this waste, and I am therefore very pleased to now have an agreement in place to enable this important work to go ahead."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News