Thursday, September 13, 2012

State secretary: We have much to offer in decommissioning business

In the framework of the European Forum for Science and Industry, the EU Joint Research Centre has organized on 11 September 2012 a roundtable discussion on "Scientific support for nuclear decommissioning".

One of the main speakers was State Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport of the Slovak Republic Mr. Stefan Chudoba.

„The current state is that there are around 133 nuclear power plants in operation and in the EU more than 45 should be decommissioned until 2025. It is a huge opportunity to be seized and a huge business “ he noted in an interview for Slovak press agency TASR.

During the meeting it was concluded the importance of further sharing of experiences in the emerging decommissioning market, as the identification and dissemination of relevant information will strengthen the know-how of the whole European Union. You may find the JRC Roundtable presentations, incl. the one of Slovak state secretary, here.

Chudoba confirmed that Slovakia is able to prepare qualified people for liquidation of the nuclear power plants (NPPs). He mentioned experienced research and educational institutions such as Slovak University of Technology, Faculty of Natural Science at Comenius University or Slovak Academy of Sciences.

Practical experience

He emphasized Slovak practical experience in decommissioning at two establishments.

NPP Bohunice A1 started operation in 1972 but due to serious accident during fuel assembly change in February 1977 it had to be shut down. Its decommissioning started in 1979 and is supposed to end in 2033. According to Chudoba the accident at A1 was a source for nuclear research and development of the nuclear industry and know-how.

Two units of NPP Bohunice V1 started operation in 1978, respectively 1980, but were “pre-maturely” closed as a pre-condition agreed in EU accession treaty of Slovakia. First unit was shut down at the end of 2006, the second two years later. The decommissioning started in 2011 and will last until 2025.

The European Commission has created Bohunice International Decommissioning Support Fund (BIDSF) administered by EBRD with a total budget of €440 million. So far €76.5 million has been spent. Another €280 million should be used from National Nuclear Fund. The total costs of V1 decommissioning have been estimated at €1.1 billion. Therefore Slovakia is pushing for more funding from the EU multiannual financial framework (2014-2020).

Further cooperation

Chudoba also mentioned companies with strong position in nuclear business, namely VUJE and JAVYS, and several projects of development of best technologies with Slovak participation. These include ALLEGRO (High-temperature gas-cooled fast reactor providing closed fuel cycle), ITER (Nuclear fusion reactor), preparation for decommissioning of Armenian NPP Medzamor through previous EU TACIS program or purely Slovak research on conditional release of materials from decommissioning process into the environment in the form of steel railway tracks (CONRELMAT).

The state secretary pointed out that Slovakia has selected six areas of science where Slovakia has a strong chance to prove successful and nuclear energy, security and decommissioning is definitely one of them. During the JRC Roundtable Slovak delegation was in fruitful discussions especially with French and Italian experts. 

France has 58 nuclear units in operation. Up to 24 of them are preparing for decommissioning therefore Chudoba believes that after years of research cooperation the Slovak experts might apply their knowledge also in practical decommissioning.

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