IAEA initiative on innovative technologies in decommissioning

21 September 2022

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has launched a global initiative aimed at boosting the role of new and emerging technologies in the decommissioning of nuclear facilities.

Example of a 'digital twin' of a nuclear facility, enabling real-time representation of a changing environment (Image: Sellafield Ltd)

The initiative - a collaborative project among organisations involved in the planning or implementation of decommissioning and associated research activities - aims to provide information on the new and emerging digital tools and technologies used in data management, planning, licensing and implementation of decommissioning. Like many areas of the nuclear sector, decommissioning faces a technological breakthrough involving the use of cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), automation and digitalisation.

Three areas of collaboration are being addressed over the course of the project and working groups have been established on digital tool selection for a variety of different decommissioning challenges during planning and implementation; technologies for conversion of unstructured legacy data into a structured format connected to digital model of facility; and emerging technologies for the generation of detailed digital models from Point Cloud data including the use of automated digital tools.

As well as exchanging information on the challenges, benefits and limitations associated with the use of different technologies to address different situations, the groups will apply different approaches to addressing specified challenges and will undertake a detailed analysis of the findings obtained from the use of different approaches and technologies.

"The aim of the project is to work collaboratively, harnessing the expertise of a diverse range of organisations involved in decommissioning to fully realise the potential of new and emerging technologies in this sphere," said Olena Mykolaichuk, Head of the IAEA's Division of Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Waste Technology. "The project findings will be published in a report in 2025 that will include information on experiences gained from the practical application and case studies from a variety of countries, based on a range of different decommissioning challenge complexity and varying levels of information."

Key issues in decommissioning will be discussed at the International Conference on Nuclear Decommissioning, to be held at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna in May 2023.

According to IAEA projections, between 12% and 25% of the 2020 nuclear electrical generating capacity is expected to be retired by 2030. So far, a total of 203 nuclear power reactors have been shut down for decommissioning globally, with 21 of them fully decommissioned. In addition, more than 150 fuel cycle facilities have been decommissioned, as well as about 450 research reactors.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News