On November 27, 2016 Swiss voters will decide whether to turn off the country’s nuclear power stations after 45 years of activity. But what does dismantling a nuclear power plant involve? ….
On December 20, 2019, the Mühleberg nuclear power plant in canton Bern will definitely be disconnected from the grid. A new chapter in the history of Swiss nuclear energy will thus begin: the complete dismantling of a power plant…Situated around 15 kilometres from the Swiss capital Bern, the reactor has been in service since 1972 and provides 5% of the electricity used in Switzerland….
Once the fuel is extracted from the reactor core, it will be submerged in the so-called deactivation pool, where it will stay for several years. Around 2024, the cooled uranium will be transported by lorry to the interim storage facility at Würelingen, canton Aargau.
It will then be possible to begin the real disassembly of the cement and steel structure, starting with the reactor core. This is the most complex phase…“Fifty years ago, when a power station was built, no one thought about dismantling it. The old plants were made in an extremely compact manner for reasons of cost and safety. Therefore there isn’t much space for the dismantling and decontamination,” …[D]eveloping robots.. [is one way] of improving efficiency and staff safety.
At Mühleberg, unlike what has been done in the United States for example, the so-called “fast” version will be used.“Dismantling this [boiling water] type of reactor is well-known and therefore we’ll be able to begin directly,” said Stefan Klute. “In other places the preference is to seal the plant for 40-50 years and wait for some of the residual radioactivity to decay naturally.”
In his opinion, there are many advantages to the more rapid option. “We don’t have to second-guess what the political situation will be in half a century – an impossible prediction in any case.
Dismantling the Mühleberg nuclear power station will generate around 200,000 tonnes of waste. Most of the material will be decontaminated directly in situ and recycled or disposed of in appropriate landfills.The whole operation should finish around 2034.
Excerpts from Luigi Jorio The end of a Swiss nuclear power plant, Swissinfo.ch, Nov. 17, 2016