Nuclear and oil decommissioning sectors join forces

Article by Adam Duckett

THE UK’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and the National Decommissioning Centre (NDC) are working together to conduct research and share lessons on decommissioning from the nuclear and oil and gas sectors.

The three-year partnership will see researchers from both organisations work together in areas of mutual interest to the oil and gas and nuclear sectors, including decarbonisation of decommissioning activities, economic impacts, cost benchmarking and remote operations in hazardous environments. The NDC is a partnership between the University of Aberdeen, Net Zero Technology Centre (NZTC) and the oil and gas industry. Its facilities include a suite for simulating offshore subsea operations in real time such as the removal or installation of energy infrastructure.

The partners have said their collaboration will draw on existing projects including one backed by the Scottish Government’s Energy Transition Fund, in which the NDC is working with the offshore energy sector to reduce emissions from decommissioning operations by introducing alternative processes, new technologies and assessing opportunities for wider collaboration.

Karl Sanderson, Head of Cross-Industry Learning at the NDA, said: “The civil nuclear industry has engaged with other industry sectors on many areas of common interest in recent years, sharing lessons learned on over 15 topics, involving more than 150 organisations. This new relationship with the NDC will build on prior collaboration to enable joint projects and research to be conducted, that aim to underpin the UK as an emerging centre of global excellence in decommissioning.”

Richard Neilson, Director of the NDC at the University of Aberdeen, said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with the NDA to explore areas where our expertise can provide value in both nuclear and offshore energy decommissioning contexts, including remote operations, decarbonisation, cost benchmarking, and potentially underwater laser cutting.”  

Last month, the International Atomic Energy Agency launched an initiative aimed at boosting the role of emerging technologies in the decommissioning of nuclear facilities. It estimates that between 12-25% of the world’s 2020 nuclear electrical generating capacity is expected to be retired by 2030. It expects artificial intelligence, automation and digitalisation will provide technological breakthroughs in decommissioning and is inviting experts to submit abstracts and grant applications for a conference on nuclear decommissioning set to be held in May next year.

“The aim of the project is to work collaboratively, harnessing the expertise of a diverse range of organisations involved in decommissioning to fully realise the potential of new and emerging technologies in this sphere,” said Olena Mykolaichuk, Head of the IAEA’s Division of Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Waste Technology. “The project findings will be published in a report in 2025 that will include information on experiences gained from the practical application and case studies from a variety of countries, based on a range of different decommissioning challenge complexity and varying levels of information.”

Article by Adam Duckett

Editor, The Chemical Engineer

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