Exploring the nuclear lifecycle
How do we handle radioactive material as sustainably as possible?
Like any human activity, nuclear applications generate waste. At SCK CEN we are constantly studying and developing new solutions for dismantling nuclear facilities, purifying radioactive material or disposal. Sustainability is central to this. The dismantling of BR3 has provided us with a wealth of knowledge – which we are happy to share to assist in dismantling projects around the world.
Decommissioning & decontamination
Once a nuclear power plant or nuclear facility has been closed down permanently, it will need to be decontaminated and dismantled. This process takes several years. Specialists characterise and disassemble the facilities, decontaminate the equipment and dispose of the (non-)radioactive waste. Het hoofddoel? The main goal? To reduce the amount of radioactive waste to a minimum.
The Belgian Reactor 3 was the first pressurised water reactor in Europe. It was taken into service in 1962 and shutdown for good in 1987. The reactor served as a prototype for the reactors in Doel and Tihange. The European Commission selected BR3 as a pilot project to show the technical and economic feasibility of the dismantling of a reactor under real conditions. At this moment, the project is in its last stage: restoring the site in its original state.
SCK CEN disseminates the expertise that it has developed with the decommissioning of BR3 both on a national and international level. These valuable insights are also an excellent guideline for the design of new nuclear plants.
Closing the loop: recycling waste
Nearly 7 million people are screened for cancer every year thanks to the Belgian production of molybdenum-99.
Together with IRE, SCK CEN aims to purify the radioactive waste residues from the production of radioisotopes through the RECUMO project. RECUMO thus contributes responsibly to the worldwide security of supply of medical radioisotopes with which we detect and treat cancer.
Searching for safe disposal
Is it not possible to reuse radioactive materials? Then we make sure they are managed as safely as possible, for people and our environment. To this end, SCK CEN is studying the scientific basis and feasibility of three potential solutions:
- surface disposal for low- and medium-level short-lived waste
- geological disposal for highly radioactive and long-lived waste
- waste transmutation to reduce the life of radioactive
Restoring site and environment
The decontamination and demolition of all buildings is the final step of a dismantling project. The dismantling experts want to restore the entire site (again) in its original state and apply for the status of a greenfield. The site can then be given a new destination.
Also, many historically radioactively contaminated sites still exist in Belgium and abroad that need to be restored. Here, too, we put our expertise to work to identify them and provide the best possible solutions.
Our latest news on these expertises
- 09 March '23
- 02 March '23
- 13 February '23
More news on the nuclear lifecycle?