Radiation Safety Assurance: Decommissioning of Nuclear Reactors at Civil and Military Installations

by Igor A. Engovatov et alia

Volume 4 of the ISTC Science and Technology Series

ISBN 0-9710464-3-3

ISTC, Science & Technology Series, Vol. 4, Futurepast, Arlington, Virginia, USA

The book Radiation Safety Assurance, Decommissioning of Nuclear Reactors at Civil and Military Installations by a number of Russian experts from several prominent institutions is a timely and valuable contribution to the literature in the expanding field of decommissioning of nuclear facilities. It is especially useful to readers involved in the growing number of cooperation projects in this field in Russia. With its numerous references to Russian source literature it is even more useful to readers with ability to read Russian and access to the referenced literature.

The book consists of six chapters. The introductory chapter includes a short discussion on the concept of decommissioning (with somewhat dated references), a good but necessarily short overview of the complicated Russian regulatory system and its main decommissioning-related requirements. In subsequent sections there is also a list of activation reactions and tables of elemental compositions of sample reactor material with reference to Russian experimental work, which are useful reference to decommissioning (as well as radiation protection and waste management) specialists and a short discussion on estimation of radioactivity and radiation fields using software, again with reference to Russian literature and software. In the final section of the chapter, the discussion on the impact of reactor cooling time on decommissioning activities, one factor affecting the dismantling strategy, is simplified and does not reflect fully the current international understanding of the pros and cons of the main decommissioning strategy options. This section also gives indication that in Russia the collective dose from a decommissioning project should not exceed one man-Sv per year, something that does not have a radiological basis.

Chapters 2 to 4 discuss decommissioning of facilities from submarine reactor compartments to nuclear power plants and research reactors, respectively. The content of the chapters is similar: description of the reactor facilities, sections on induced radioactivity (mainly calculations, with some measurement results) and dismantling experience.

Chapter 2 deals with the important issue of decommissioning of nuclear submarines, icebreakers and other transport vessels. There are sections covering reactor compartment design, decommissioning options, induced activity and radioactive contamination, radiation survey of submarines, hazards and emergency situations as well as a section on actual dismantling experience. This chapter is very welcome to the growing number of western experts that are involved in multilateral and bilateral assistance programs to decommission Russian nuclear submarines. Of course, everything can not be condensed into 40 pages, but the text gives a good introduction and an overall view. I would have hoped there would have been a section on lessons learned from decommissioning the tens of submarines during the last few years.

Chapter 3 describes the decommissioning of Russian nuclear power plants, with similar technical sections as in Chapter 2. The discussion on the graphite moderated RBMK reactors brings up the interesting question of how to deal with graphite.

Chapter 4 deals with the decommissioning of research reactors. A list of research reactors in major Russian research centers is provided along with short descriptions of the main research reactor types in Russia. The content follows that of the previous chapters. Two practical cases of decommissioning are presented also.

In Chapter 5, radioactive waste from decommissioning is discussed. Information on the amounts of waste from the decommissioning of different facilities is presented. The chapter discusses also classification, clearance and reuse of waste.

According to title of the final chapter, Chapter 6, it should discuss the current status and future considerations of decommissioning of nuclear installations. It starts with a section on a data bank(s) for decommissioning. The suggested scheme seems a bit overambitious and could have been placed somewhere else in the book. The rest of the chapter contains recommendations (some fairly detailed) related to decommissioning for different stages of a reactor project, from design to decommissioning. The inclusion of well thought design requirements is commendable. However, the idea of constructing an underground transport shaft and a separate decommissioning building for a NPP reactor pressure vessel seems a bit far fetched and perhaps shows that actual decommissioning plans for the Russian nuclear power plants are not yet well developed. There are many possibilities for the dismantling of the reactor vessel including lifting, transporting and disposing of the vessel as one piece.

While with its almost 200 pages and a quite large number of reactor types covered, this book cannot be a complete handbook of decommissioning Russian reactors, it is a fairly comprehensive overview on the subject. The information presented helps the western reader to get a good idea of the reactor facilities described, and many of the presented tables, calculated activities and dose rates are widely useful for decommissioning, waste management and radiation protection specialists. With ample reference to Russian (and some international) literature, I would assume that the book is even more useful to a Russian reader with access to the references. At some instances it gives a glimpse to Russian thinking in radiation protection or decommissioning that is slightly different from international practice.

The English in the book is quite readable, with some of the terminology familiar to readers of translations of Russian texts in this field. A typical example is already in the title of the book: ‘safety assurance’ is typically used in Russia instead of ‘safety’. And the word ‘complex’ is used more often and in a slightly different meaning than in non-Russian texts. There are some problems with foreign names here and there, seemingly the result of transliteration to Russian and back to English.

All in all, this book is a good overview of decommissioning of Russian nuclear reactors. I have placed it within an arms reach in my office, to be used frequently in my work.

Risto Paltemaa
Senior Inspector
Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority STUK
Helsinki, Finland

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