EU Science Hub

Nuclear decommissioning: a growing sector in need of resources and innovation

Nuclear decommissioning faces many technological challenges.
Dec 11 2015

Cease of operation and dismantling of a nuclear installation, known as nuclear decommissioning, is a growing industrial activity worldwide.

The EU is currently a world leader in this field, but in order to keep this leading position, it needs to make additional efforts to further enhance its extensive know-how and attract more young people to studies and training in nuclear related disciplines, according to a joint report by the JRC and the University of Birmingham.

A complete decommissioning, starting from the end of operation of a reactor until its final release from regulatory control, is a long-term process that can easily exceed 10 to 20 years. This explains why only a few major nuclear installations have been fully decommissioned so far in Europe, while a third of the over 200 nuclear reactors are already in permanent shut down.

Although many of the techniques used in decommissioning have reached maturity, there are still areas requiring R&D. Particular attention is needed to make the current techniques more efficient (less time-consuming, less waste producing) and safer (less radiation exposure risks, fewer occupational hazards, more ergonomically sound).

A survey shows that various education and training programmes exist but they will probably need to expand to meet a future increased demand. This evolution highlights the need for cooperation between universities and for better coordination among all parties involved in decommissioning, such as industry, safety authorities and associated technical support organisations, waste management and decommissioning agencies and research centres.