EMPIR environment project collects and evaluates data on radioactive waste

Image showing rows of yellow radioactive waste barrels
Barrels of radioactive waste

Activities to support the development of a good practice guide on measurements for radioactive waste has begun in CIEMAT Spain

The EMPIR project In situ metrology for decommissioning nuclear facilities (16ENV09, MetroDECOM II) is building on the results of two earlier EMRP projects MetroRWM and MetroDecom, and aims to provide nuclear site operators with the measurement techniques for measuring radioactivity on site, and segregating and monitoring waste throughout all stages of the disposal process.

Preparatory activities to support the development of a good practice guide on segregation and free release measurements for radioactive waste have begun in CIEMAT, a Spanish Designated Institute for ionising radiation metrology, with the installation of an easily transportable Free Release and Segregation Measurement Facility. The facility is based on High Purity Germanium detectors, plastic scintillators and passive neutron detectors, and a low activity concrete shielding with a total weight about 70,000 kg.

Ninety-one first-generation nuclear power plants are being decommissioned in the EU and the cost of decommissioning and waste management is estimated to be in excess of 150 billion Euro.

A crucial part of this process is the accurate, safe and cost-effective characterisation of the type of waste present and determining if this is safe to be released for general disposal or requires storage in a containment facility.

The Free Release and Segregation Measurement Facility ‘Supermum’, a facility with high throughput that can be easily transported to a site where waste is present, was installed at CIEMAT in February 2019 and preliminary tests on background and reference materials were performed by CMI scientists in September, obtaining good results.

This research will contribute to national good practice guides, such as the proposed UK Nuclear Industry Code of Practice for site characterisation.

Project coordinator Peter Ivanov from NPL said:

‘It is difficult to overestimate the impact of accurate waste characterisation for safe, cost effective and environmentally friendly nuclear decommissioning. In this regard MetroDECOM II project aims to develop new and highly efficient methods for measuring the radioactivity content of waste and suspect materials so that the decommissioning process can be performed with minimal risk to staff, members of the public and the environment.’

Good practice guides available (from earlier EMRP project)

This EMPIR project builds on the work of the earlier EMRP project ‘Metrology for decommissioning nuclear facilities’ (ENV54, MetroDecom) which produced three Good Practice Guides:

The work of both these projects and other EURAMET projects significantly contribute to fostering international collaboration.

This EMPIR project is co-funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and the EMPIR Participating States.

This EMRP joint research project is part of EURAMET’s European Metrology Research Programme. The EMRP is jointly funded by the EMRP participating countries within EURAMET and the European Union.

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