IAEA makes progress on decommissioning reference tool

04 November 2020

Experts from around the world met virtually last week to provide feedback for an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) initiative to catalogue and analyse the status of, and major challenges faced by, decommissioning programmes worldwide. The Global Status of Decommissioning project aims to complete a report by the end of next year.

Measuring scrap metal for traces of radiation during dismantlement of the turbine hall at Ignalina in Lithuania (Image: Jefffrey Donovan/IAEA)

The two-year IAEA project brought together 40 participants representing 20 countries as well as the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency, the European Commission and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Gathering online for four days last week for a technical meeting, the experts discussed decommissioning strategies and timeframes, and foreseen challenges, including resource needs both in terms of personnel and technology.

Participants in the meeting provided extensive feedback on the draft report, which they expect will be a useful and necessary resource both for those with policy responsibility for decommissioning programmes, as well as for the public and other stakeholders interested in the future management of liabilities from nuclear activities.

Participants agreed on a range of activities aimed at completing the data collection efforts to allow completion of the report by the end of 2021 and publication shortly thereafter, said Patrick O'Sullivan, the IAEA Decommissioning Specialist leading the project. The IAEA also plans to organise an international conference on decommissioning in 2023, following its previous conference on that topic held in Madrid in 2016.

The IAEA said it sees increasing work over the coming decades for decommissioning and associated waste management programmes. Many of the world's 442 nuclear power reactors currently in operation will be shut down, while new reactors to be commissioned will need plans to fund their decommissioning. A total of 189 power reactors have been shut down for decommissioning, with 17 of them fully decommissioned. In addition, 130 fuel cycle facilities have been decommissioned as well as about 440 research reactors.

"The nuclear industry faces a challenge over the coming decades to decommission scores of facilities," said Mikhail Chudakov, IAEA deputy director general and head of the department of nuclear energy. "This multifaceted task must be implemented in line with high standards of safety, while also being cost effective, and address the social and environmental dimension for host communities. This task is urgent and necessary regardless of whether or not the countries involved plan to utilise nuclear energy again in the future."

The IAEA assists countries in efforts to plan and implement decommissioning projects and develops related safety standards and Nuclear Energy Series publications and other reports on technical and safety related aspects, organises meetings of experts, collaborative projects, scientific exchanges, training courses and workshops.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News