Fortum to decommission Finnish research reactor

08 April 2020

Finnish utility Fortum has been awarded a contract by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland to decommission the Finnish Reactor 1 (FiR1) research reactor in Espoo. It will be the first nuclear reactor to be decommissioned in Finland.

The FiR1 research reactor (Image: Fortum)

The FiR1 water-cooled, pool-type TRIGA Mark II research reactor 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 FiR1 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.

The contract to decommission FiR1 follows the signing in December 2018 of a letter of intent by Fortum and VTT to cooperate in the decommissioning of the reactor.

The decommissioning works include planning, preparatory measures, dismantling of the reactor and waste management including final disposal. Fortum noted that, as the reactor has been designed for research and educational use, the amount of decommissioning waste and the associated radioactivity will be relatively minor. Decommissioning will be carried out under the oversight of the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority of Finland (STUK).

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.

"We are proud to join VTT in this first nuclear decommissioning project in Finland. The dismantling works start in 2022 and the works will be completed by the end of 2023," said Anni Jaarinen, head of decommissioning and waste in Fortum's Nuclear Services. "At Fortum, we have been working persistently to develop solutions for responsible nuclear waste management. In the future we can utilise the experiences from this project and establish efficient ways of working for both our own power plants and the international market."

"For us at VTT, this contract is a key milestone towards implementation of the decommissioning along the highest standards," said Markus Airila, project manager at VTT. "Especially, Fortum's experience in nuclear power plant operation and nuclear waste management complements our own competencies in an essential way."

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