Fortum to assist in decommissioning research reactor

04 December 2018

Finnish utility Fortum has signed a letter of intent to cooperate with VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland in the decommissioning of the Finnish Reactor 1 (FiR 1) research reactor and the nuclear power plant structural materials research laboratory.

The Finland Reactor 1 (Image: Stuk)

The FiR 1 water-cooled, pool-type TRIGA Mark II research reactor at Otaniemi, Espoo, was commissioned by the Helsinki University of Technology in 1962. The reactor was originally built for research and education and later also for isotope production and radiotherapy. Operational responsibility for the reactor was transferred to VTT in 1971.

Although licensed to operate until 2023, VTT decided in 2012 to stop the use of FiR 1 for financial reasons. The reactor - with a thermal capacity of 250 kW - was run for the last time on 30 June 2015. In 2017, VTT submitted an application for permission from the Council of State to decommission the reactor. It will be the first nuclear reactor to be decommissioned in Finland.

The used fuel from FiR 1 must be removed from the facility before the reactor can be dismantled. VTT primarily intends to return this fuel to the USA, the country of origin. Alternatively, the fuel could be disposed of in the Olkiluoto repository in Finland, after interim storage.

Dismantling the reactor is expected to take a few months, and the entire decommissioning process, including decontamination and release of the facility, will take approximately two years. The building could then be used for some other purpose.

In addition to cooperation on dismantling and waste handling, VTT and Fortum will also investigate possibilities for interim storage and final disposal of the low- and intermediate-level decommissioning waste at the Loviisa nuclear power plant site.

The actual demolition phase of FiR 1 is expected to begin in 2021 at the earliest. Preparations have been made for the decommissioning of the laboratory, which will begin next year. VTT noted that all measures related to the decommissioning will be carried out under the supervision of Finland's Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (Stuk).

VTT said the research reactor will serve as a pilot during the decommissioning phase, "preparing the entire Finnish nuclear power sector for the forthcoming decommissioning of power plant reactors".

VTT is part of Finland's innovation system and operates under the mandate of the Ministry of Employment and the Economy.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News