Recently, it was reported by NUCNET, the independent nuclear news agency, that Ågesta Nuclear Plant — Sweden’s first energy generating nuclear reactor — is now set to be dismantled. Nuclear fuel and heavy water were removed from the plant after the shutdown, and the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority approved a safety report for the dismantling and demolition of the plant.
Sweden has been preparing for a decade of nuclear decommissioning. Their plan was that by the end of 2020, half of their nuclear reactors will have been permanently shut down for decommissioning.
According to the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority, nuclear power currently represents approximately 40% of Sweden’s national power supply. There are three nuclear power plants in the country, with a total of seven reactors in operation, some in the process of shutdown.
After 2020, there will be six nuclear reactors in operation in Sweden, distributed between the three nuclear power plants. The respective owners plan to operate these plants until circa 2040. The two reactors at the Barsebäck NPP were shut down in 1999 and 2005, respectively. These reactors are now undergoing decommissioning, together with Oskarshamn’s units 1 and 2, in addition to the Ågesta plant. Apart from the reactors in operation or undergoing decommissioning, there are a number of other nuclear installations in Sweden. They are used to manufacture nuclear fuel and store spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste.
The Authority notes that when the operator of a nuclear facility (i.e. the license holder) is to decommission the facility, “this must be done in a way that protects people and the environment from radioactivity in the facility. The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority issues regulations governing the planning and undertaking of dismantling activities; what’s more, the Authority performs checks to ensure that the license holder takes responsibility for the safe decommissioning of the facility.”
As we have noted in previous articles, decommissioning can be a labor intensive and dirty job, as well as a dangerous one. Many sites have more than just radiation to worry about: chemicals may also be present. Advanced, integrated radiation detection and radioactivity measurement instruments, as well as chemical analyzers, help mitigate the threat and keep workers safe.
Here are some of the radiation detection solutions that can be used in the decommissioning process:
- Dosimetry services offer accurate measurement of radiation dose exposure in the workplace, ensuring personnel safety in any environment where radiation exposure is an issue. There are electronic dosimeters that are used for active monitoring of employee exposure that feature a built-in telemetry option.
- Personnel Contamination Monitors identify surface contamination on the body, hands, and feet.
- Air monitoring systems give early warning to workers of airborne alpha and beta radiation.
- Personal Dose Rate Meters detect and measure very low gamma energies; even the smallest change in radiation rates are displayed immediately, while coincidentally occurring fluctuations are suppressed.
- Geiger Muller, scintillation and gas proportional detectors are suited for a wide range of applications where personnel risk radiation exposure, whether they are emergency responders, fire fighters, nuclear power plant employees, or medical professionals.
- Multi-Purpose Survey Meters help to quickly identify mixed radioactive surface contamination in facility and field environments.
- Spectroscopic Personal Radiation Detectors detect and identify neutron and gamma radiation, while Handheld Radiation Isotope Identifiers are well suited to identify specific gamma isotopes.
The Swedish Ågesta Nuclear Plant opened in 1964 and was in operation for 10 years before ceasing operation in 1974.
Here are other resources for information on US-based decommissioning: