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Nuclear dismantling: SMELD, a furnace to melt down steel from part of nuclear power plants

20 June '23

Belgium is set to develop a furnace in order to melt down steel from nuclear power plant dismantling. The announcement was made by the subcommittee on nuclear safety. Through the recovery plan, coordinated by State Secretary Thomas Dermine, Deputy Prime Minister Dermagne and Minister Van der Straeten are providing €13.5 million in funding for this infrastructure.


When it comes to dismantling nuclear power plants, metals fall into 3 main categories:

  • A great deal of the metal in a power plant is free of any residual radioactivity. It will therefore go through a conventional recycling process.
  • However, another portion is too contaminated to be processed or recycled. It will be categorised as nuclear waste and sent to ONDRAF/NIRAS, the national agency for radioactive waste and enriched fissile materials.
  • The third and final part – which represents significant volumes – has a limited level of radioactivity, allowing it to be recycled within dedicated infrastructure, a new project to be called SMELD: State of the art Metal Melting Limiting waste during D&D.

The project has two components: first, fundamental research activities performed by SCK CEN in Mol, in collaboration with CRM in Liège and second: feasibility studies.

Using a laboratory fusion furnace, this will enable research into the movements of certain radioisotopes during the fusion process and will help determining parameters/methods for controlling the movements of these isotopes.

The project will also include feasibility studies, industrial research and fusion infrastructure, and even larger-scale research with one or more industrial partners, to be selected by SCK CEN.

 "We are convinced that this project will lead to economic development and sustainable and local employment opportunities in the dismantling sector."
Pierre-Yves Dermagne, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy and Employment.
"This furnace is an essential tool for establishing a dismantling industry in Belgium. The furnace will unquestionably allow us to develop Belgian knowledge in dismantling and subsequently position our companies on the international market."
Thomas Dermine, State Secretary for Recovery and Strategic Investments, in charge of Science Policy.
"The dismantling of nuclear power plants and the disposal of the resulting waste is the most expensive and sensitive project in our country, spanning decades and creating thousands of jobs in Belgium for years to come. This €13.5 million investment from the European Recovery Fund in a technology for melting down metals from the dismantling of nuclear power plants is an investment in circularity and reuse.

It will enable SCK CEN, in collaboration with our universities and companies, to develop this expertise, which can then be exported to other countries that are dismantling nuclear power plants in the coming years.”
Tinne Van der Straeten, Minister of Energy

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