D&D can be big business

  • D&D can be big business

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    2.5-minute read

  • Decommissioning and dismantling (D&D) of nuclear sites touches every aspect of the industry. It is also a guaranteed growth area with huge potential for long-term business.

     


    The value of the global D&D market up to 2050 has been estimated at around US$1 trillion, a figure attributed to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).


    On a country level, the UK government has estimated a cost of about £119bn (US$167bn) spread over more than a century to deal with its own nuclear sites. Germany’s reported estimate is €38bn (US$47bn) to decommission its plants and manage waste.


    Figures such as these suggest the market for D&D services should be an attractive long-term prospect for companies already active in the nuclear industry, as well as those looking for a way in.

     

    Sequence and timing 


    Each of the three approaches to D&D, as defined by the IAEA – immediate dismantling, safe enclosure or storage, and entombment – offer business opportunities.

     

    The total cost of D&D depends on the sequence and timing of the various stages of the programme. Experts say deferment of a stage tends to reduce its cost, due to decreasing radioactivity, but this may be offset by higher storage and surveillance costs.


    One major challenge in dismantling early NPPs such as Windscale in the UK and Brennilis in France is the absence of D&D plans, turning the work done there into test cases on which standard operating procedures can be based. Additionally, each activity presents new possibilities.

     

    Designing own tools


    The consortium working at Brennilis, comprising Onet Technologies of France and Nukem Technologies of Germany, reportedly had to design, make and test their own cutting tools before they could proceed with dismantling the reactor pressure vessel and other elements. At Windscale, before contractors could start work, they had to devise ways of getting accurate information about the state of the core


    Remote handling is likely to play a big role in D&D. As tasks and the equipment to perform them become more complex, good operator skills are essential. Virtual reality may offer an alternative to the expensive test rigs normally used to train operators, accelerating the training and cutting costs.


    Dismantling the structures themselves creates significant amounts of concrete and metal waste. Much of this can be recycled or reused, subject to national regulations. Experts suggest greater international harmonisation would be useful in this effort.

     

    Sharing experience


    The IAEA, the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency and the Commission of the European Communities are among organisations through which experience and knowledge about D&D is shared between technical communities. Important areas of focus are the assessment of the radioactive inventories, decontamination methods, cutting techniques, remote operation, radioactive waste management and health and safety.


    There are signs that the nuclear business community is acting. Studsvik, the Swedish company which describes itself as a leading supplier of nuclear decommissioning services, has joined forces with Westinghouse and Cyclife to offer what it calls “a full range of decommissioning services” under the brand name of ndcon. Its immediate target market is Germany and the Nordic countries, but it also sees potential across Europe.


    Studsvik, from its Swedish roots, has grown branches in Germany, the UK, USA, Japan, China and the United Arab Emirates. The logic is simple: the challenge of D&D is global, so a response that mirrors it makes good business sense. 

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