Norwegian, Belgian research centres enhance cooperation

19 September 2018

A framework cooperation agreement has been signed between Norway's Institute for Energy Technology (IFE) and Belgium's Nuclear Research Centre (SCK-CEN), through which the two organisations will extend their collaboration on nuclear research and decommissioning.

Huseby (left) and van Walle sign the framework cooperation agreement (Image: István Szöke / IFE)

IFE hosts the Halden nuclear fuel and materials testing reactor. The project was an undertaking of national organisations in 19 countries sponsoring a jointly financed programme under the auspices of the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA). The programme was renewed every three years. As the host country, Norway covered about 30% of the programme cost. On 27 June, IFE announced it would not apply to extend the reactor's operating licence, which was due to expire in 2020, and the reactor, which had been offline due to a safety valve failure, would not be restarted. Continued operation of the reactor - which started up in 1959 - would not be viable, IFE said.

IFE and SCK-CEN yesterday signed a framework cooperation agreement on the sidelines of the International Atomic Energy Agency's 62nd General Conference in Vienna. The agreement was signed by IFE CEO Nils Morten Huseby and SCK-CEN Director General Eric van Walle.

"The disappearance of the Halden reactor means that international demand goes up for various safety experiments on nuclear fuel to be continued in the BR2 reactor," said van Walle. "By working jointly with IFE, we are is a situation to put our experience to good use to support these experiments. Our research centres have several complementary skills and competencies in the field of irradiation services. Working together also implies sharing a common vision, getting to know and optimise each other's techniques to improve our international service provision in terms of safe operation of nuclear plants."

Huseby said: "IFE continues to be committed to nuclear research even though the Halden reactor has permanently shut down. International collaboration has always formed a key part of IFE's activities and will be of even greater importance in the future, as the number of nuclear research facilities is decreasing internationally."

He added, "IFE has worked with SCK-CEN for many years through the Halden Project and our two research centres have established a close working relationship. Through this agreement we will be able to increase our collaboration both in the scientific and decommissioning fields."

IFE said it will also be able to use the "broad knowledge and techniques" developed by SCK-CEN during the decommissioning of its BR3 reactor to support decommissioning of the Halden reactor.

"SCK-CEN's experience from decommissioning the BR3 reactor will be of great relevance for IFE in the coming years, as the work to decommission the Halden reactor will commence," Huseby said.

Cooperation with IAEA

Meanwhile, IFE has signed an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to collaborate on digital technologies in decommissioning and nuclear knowledge management.

Huseby (left) and Chudakov after signing the practical arrangements (Image: IAEA)

Under the new practical arrangements, IFE and the IAEA have identified a number of areas for potential cooperation. These include the exchange and dissemination of information, including publications and sharing of experiences, best practices and case studies. Another area is in training and capacity building, including cooperation in the development of educational and training courses and considering digitalisation of knowledge management for nuclear decommissioning.

Mikhail Chudakov, IAEA deputy director-general and head of the agency's department of nuclear energy, said: "Establishing formal collaboration between the IAEA and IFE will enable us to work towards improving the dissemination of research results and helping us identify emerging good practices for Member States. IFE's work in the field of digitalisation and 3D modelling is of particular interest to us, as we seek to ensure that the nuclear industry, especially in decommissioning, takes best advantage of emerging technologies to improve planning for a range of risk scenarios and for better training of field workers."

"IFE has been engaged in research and practical application of advanced digitally enhanced concepts for nuclear decommissioning for decades. With the coming decommissioning of the Halden reactor, IFE and Norway have a strategic interest in enhancing the competence within this field," said Huseby. "IFE would like to take a leading role for facilitating a smooth adoption of innovative digital support concepts by the industry, in collaboration with the IAEA."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News