Norwegian research reactor to be decommissioned

26 April 2019

The board of directors of Norway's Institute for Energy Technology (IFE) yesterday decided to permanently cease operations of the JEEP-II research reactor at Kjeller. Earlier this year, IFE said investigations had shown "extensive and costly improvements" were needed to keep JEEP-II - Norway's last reactor - in operation.

The JEEP-II reactor at Kjeller (Image: IFE)

The only neutron scattering facility in the Nordic countries, JEEP-II is part of the national Norwegian research infrastructure NcNeutron for fundamental research in physics and materials technology. The partners in NcNeutron include the University of Oslo, the University of Stavanger, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and independent research organisation SINTEF. JEEP-II is also part of Norway's contribution to the development and construction of the European Spallation Source research centre in Lund, Sweden, which is scheduled to be completed in 2023.

JEEP-II was taken offline last December for scheduled maintenance and inspections. However, in late-January, IFE said it had postponed the restart of JEEP-II - that had been planned for 7 February - owing to the discovery of corrosion in "reactor components important to safety". At that time, the Institute said the inspections would continue until the end of January and a report would be finalised in mid-February. But in an 11 March statement, IFE said investigations had indicated "extensive and costly improvements" would be needed to put the research reactor back into operation.

IFE and external experts have now analysed the findings and scope of the repair, IFE announced yesterday.

"The conclusion is that the repair will require a long-term shutdown of the reactor with considerable repair costs in excess of IFE's financial capabilities," it said. "The reactor is currently shut down and in a safe condition, with fuel and heavy water removed, and as such does not pose any danger to health, environment or safety."

IFE Chairman Olav Fjell said: "The board of directors have decided, based on an overall assessment, that the reactor will not be restarted. IFE will consequently initiate work to prepare the decommissioning of the reactor."

Fjell noted that, while the Norwegian government contributes funding for waste management and decommissioning, it is IFE's responsibility to cover the cost of repairs and further operation of JEEP-II. He said IFE "cannot count on government support for this" and does not have the resources "to bear the risk of this itself".

The 2000 kWt reactor at the Kjeller research centre, about 25km north-east of Oslo, was commissioned in 1967. Its main purposes are basic research in neutron physics, the production of medical and industrial isotopes, and irradiation services and experiments. In December, IFE received a renewed licence to operate JEEP-II for 10 more years.

IFE said the closure of the JEEP II reactor will have limited consequences for its research.

"The reactor at Kjeller has, for more than 50 years, contributed to outstanding research at IFE, nationally and internationally," said IFE CEO Nils Morten Huseby. "The reactor has been a unique tool for material research and nanoscience, which has been useful to develop sustainable solutions for renewable energy and energy storage, such as batteries and hydrogen. It has contributed to considerable value creation based on research, development of new companies, and the development of cancer drugs."

IFE also 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. The programme was renewed every three years. As the host country, Norway covered about 30% of the programme cost. In June 2018, 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.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News