VTT and its partners are developing nuclear power plant decommissioning into a business
In autumn 2019 VTT launched the multi-year domestic project “dECOmm: Finnish Ecosystem for New International Decommissioning Services” bringing together Finnish expertise that will prove useful in the forthcoming effort to decommission nuclear power plants both in Finland and abroad. VTT is responsible for the research side of the dECOmm project, and there are currently seven industrial business partners involved. Finnish companies Fortum, Sweco and Delete Demolition have also started their own parallel research projects to acquire knowledge needed to develop their expertise for the future products and services that are competitive on international markets.
VTT's interest in the nuclear power plant decommissioning business accelerated five years ago, when VTT's own FiR1 research reactor was shut down. "We have a legal obligation to manage the decommissioning of our research reactor", says FiR1 project manager Markus Airila. The in-house dECOmm project can provide valuable lessons to other Finnish companies. The Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority of Finland (STUK) gave their safety assessment on VTT’s application for FiR1 decommissioning in 2019, and VTT expects the decommissioning licence to be granted by the Finnish government (Council of State) during 2020.
The aim of the dECOmm research project is to construct a strong ecosystem during the coming years that could come together and manage even large decommissioning projects. According to Airila, the decommissioning of the FiR1 research reactor and associated laboratory facilities is a good pilot project when aiming for the commercial reactor decommissioning market. "The rules are the same, but the scale is suitably small," Airila says.
The technologies developed in the research project are focused on building data models, AR/VR and machine learning. According to dECOmm project manager Tapani Ryynänen, new digital technologies offer major savings potential. The old power plants first need to be accurately reconstructed or modelled into 3D digital format. The worksite also offers a lot of information, such as radiation measurement data, that needs to be made available to all parties and interpreted in an efficient manner."Good planning allows for massive boosts in efficiency," Ryynänen says.
In addition to the domestic project, VTT is a partner within the European Commission project “SHARE: Stakeholder-based Analysis of Research for Decommissioning” coordinate by CEA in France (grant agreement No. 847626). SHARE intends to provide an inclusive roadmap for Research, in technical and non-technical fields, enabling stakeholders to jointly improve safety, reduce costs and minimize environmental impact in the decommissioning of nuclear facilities. The project can influence the future direction of decommissioning R&D funding and cooperation to having meaningful impact and efficient implementation.