LFR fuel removed from Petten

06 December 2013

The last used fuel from the Low Flux Reactor (LFR) at Petten has been transported to the Netherlands' central radioactive waste storage facility. Decommissioning of the research reactor is underway.

The Low Flux Reactor at Petten (Image: NRG)

The high-enriched uranium (HEU) fuel was transported by road to the Central Organization for Radioactive Waste (Covra) facility in the Zeeland region of the Netherlands on 4 December.

The Nuclear Research and Consultancy Group (NRG), operator of the Petten site, said that the fuel was the most radioactive part of the reactor and described its removal as a major step towards the dismantling of the LFR.

Under the Netherlands' nuclear energy policy, all levels of radioactive waste will be stored above ground for a period of at least 100 years. Covra is responsible for the central storage of this waste. After 100 years' storage, consideration will be given to whether part of the waste that is still radioactive can be disposed of in a national underground repository.

The LFR, with a power output of 30 kilowatts, began operating in 1960 and was mainly used for the production of neutrons for biological and physical research, as well as for training. It was permanently shut down in December 2010 and preparations began for its dismantling.

The 45 MW High Flux Reactor (HFR), also at Petten, started in September 1960, since when its use has largely been shifted from nuclear materials testing to fundamental research and the production of medical radioisotopes. In 2006, it was converted from HEU fuel to low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel. The reactor - operated by NRG on behalf of the European Union's Joint Research Centre (JRC) - has for a long time supplied about 60% of Europe's and 30% of the world's supply of medical radioactive sources.

The Dutch government gave its approval in January 2012 for the construction of a replacement for the ageing HFR. The new reactor, known as Pallas, is not likely to be operational until around 2024.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News