Advanced measurement techniques as the key to minimize and safely dispose radioactive decommissioning waste
The ANUBIS project already counts on 3 partners for innovative decommissioning solutions
Do we want to reuse and recycle the bulk of materials from the decommissioning of Belgian nuclear power plants as much as possible and dispose of the remaining radioactive waste safely? Then we need to improve our knowledge and technologies. Let that be precisely the goal of the SCK CEN ANUBIS project. With the support of the European Union, SCK CEN is joining forces with various industrial players. Three separate collaborations are currently underway.
Answers for Belgian decommissioning
The decommissioning of Belgium's nuclear power plants includes the complete removal of the nuclear installations and the full restoration of the site. That means also getting rid of the radioactive waste already in storage as well as a huge amount of new material flows - and by doing so as safely, and as sustainably and cost-effectively as possible. The pioneering work of SCK CEN to decommission the research reactor BR3 has already provided invaluable expertise and knowledge. "We are expanding that with ANUBIS by solving specific issues for the decommissioning of Belgium's nuclear power plants. The result? New tools, techniques and expertise which Belgian industry can also use in future decommissioning projects," said Nele Weyens, the ANUBIS coordinator at SCK CEN.
Ludlum, Mirion and DSi for innovative characterisation
Three separate collaborations have been launched. The industrial partners - Mirion, Ludlum and DSi - are each joining forces with the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre. In order to make the necessary technological progress in the decommissioning sector, SCK CEN is combining its own expertise with that of third parties in order to implement more efficient and effective solutions. An Bielen, a characterisation expert at SCK CEN, explains, "Being involved in the implementation as well as in the research, we join forces with measuring device developers/manufacturers. We are seeking for innovative optimisations, combining the partnership knowledge and experience to produce direct applicable end results with higher reliability and accuracy.
Each of the three collaborations focuses on the topic of 'radiological characterisation', i.e. determining the type and amount of radioactivity in a given material or waste stream. This is essential for the safe and optimal reuse and recycling of materials in the conventional industry and the disposal of radioactive waste.
Mirion Technologies - product innovation for the safe disposal of radioactive decommissioning waste
In SCK CEN's future MaT innovation hub, Mirion, a leading company in the development, manufacturing and distribution of equipment and services for the measurement of ionizing radiation, will work with SCK CEN in order to install an optimised measurement system for characterising radioactive waste packaged into large volume containers.
The ultimate goal is to develop a validated, broadly useable software module for quantifying radioactivity with enhanced accuracy and smart automated results interpretation. The module is an addition to the standard software package which can be added to the standard measurement and analysis system, contributing to the optimal and safe disposal of radioactive waste at the Category A repository in Dessel.
Marijke Keters, managing director Mirion: “Mirion innovates by being in close proximity with our customers, developing a deep understanding of their work and by applying our extensive expertise and experience. We are therefore delighted to be co-developing solutions with SCK CEN, a research center with a strong international reputation, for the benefit of decommissioning in Belgium and beyond.”
Ludlum GmbH - product innovation for the release of dismantling materials
Ludlum GmbH, based in Hamburg- Germany, manufactures and distributes instruments for the measurement of radiation in the areas of contamination and clearance measurement. Ludlum and SCK CEN are working together on an optimisation which will ensure an even more accurate characterisation.
This is crucial to increase the amount of materials to be released (un)conditionally under the Belgian law in a safe way. The development focuses on the characterisation of large volumes of materials derived from the decommissioning of nuclear facilities. The final product is a software module which can be built into the standard measurement system, helping to maximise the reuse and recycling of materials.
Daan van Bree, Director of Sales bij Ludlum GmbH: “In 2018, we developed a multi-channel energy spectrum analysis tool measuring electronics based on plastic detectors. This technology has proven itself in the market at well-known international research institutions as well as nuclear power plants. We are delighted to work with SCK CEN on an optimisation which will ensure an even more accurate characterization and calibration to provide an even better free release solution for all our customers worldwide.”
Delta Services Industriels SRL (DSi) - product innovation for the safe disposal of radioactive historical waste
DSi is a private Belgian company which specialised in the development and sale of radiological detection solutions. A spin-off company of DSi, SYSCADE SA, was recently founded to further develop and promote mobile solutions dedicated to the radiological characterisation of historical unprecedented and unconditioned waste packaged into 200-L drums.
Together with SCK CEN, DSi - Syscade is aiming at improving the radiological accuracy and reliability by combining results from gamma spectrometry and 3D density distributions obtained by X-ray tomography using machine learning algorithms. Such developments provide promising solutions for managing radioactive waste lacking historical information.
Thierry Delvigne, CEO DSi – Syscade: “The aim of Syscade solutions is to minimize uncertainties of radiological measurements performed on nuclear wastes. This partnership is of particular interest for DSi, since the ANUBIS project will allow comparing standard uncertainty calculations (i.e. ASTM C1133) with the innovative “Bayesian” approach developed by SCK CEN.”
ANUBIS & the relaunch plan for Belgium and Europe
Just rewind to 2021. At that time the European Union awarded SCK CEN funding for the ANUBIS project, which stands for "Advancing NUclear dismantling in Belgium through Improving Sustainability". The main goal of the project is to develop technologies and competencies in order to maximise the reuse of materials released during nuclear decommissioning. This includes the construction of a new research, development and demonstration facility with associated facilities for supporting innovation in dismantling projects in Belgium.
The project not only fits into the Belgian-European plan for the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, but also fits seamlessly with the sustainable dismantling of the five nuclear power plants at Doel and Tihange. "And we are not alone," said Nele Weyens, the coordinator of the ANUBIS project at SCK CEN. "We are already joining forces with three partners in the private sector."
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