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Fostering innovation in decommissioning of nuclear facilities

This action focuses on closer-to-the-market activities aiming to capitalise existing technologies for characterisation and risk assessment, dismantling, on-site waste management and environmental remediation in order to gain needed efficiencies in the decommissioning of nuclear power reactors, research reactors, facilities for mining and processing of radioactive ore and any other nuclear facility.

Decommissioning is largely executed manually thereby requiring extensive personnel protection measures, engineering controls and costly, inefficient and detailed work planning and monitoring to achieve the required high safety levels. The action could address such issues exploiting remotely operated technologies coupled with current technologies for measurements, material handling, tooling, etc. Modular, automated, remotely operated technologies which are broadly applicable could be assembled and field-tested at nuclear facilities. The action may also address liabilities related to highly irradiated or contaminated materials. Effort should respond to specific characteristics of decontamination, dismantling and environmental remediation projects, which are often unique and dominated by non-routine operations. Development of innovative solutions should take into account ongoing improvement in safety conditions, project management efficiency and the associated costs.

Projects submitted under this topic are expected to focus on Technology Readiness Levels 5 to 7 (see General Annex F) and demonstrate European added-value.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the Euratom Programme up to EUR 2.8 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

The decommissioning of a power reactor is commonly scheduled to be completed over a very long period of several decades after it ceases of operation. This practice no longer responds to the early decommissioning demand shaped by the upcoming phase-out of nuclear power in certain Member States (MSs), the public interest, as well as the contemporary principles of environmental sustainability. By November 2018, only a few of the nuclear power reactors permanently shut down (169 worldwide of which 94 in the EU)[[IAEA PRIS,]] had been fully decommissioned. Based on the information provided by MSs[[Questionnaires sent to the members of the Decommissioning Funding Group. EC continues collecting updated data with the help of the DFG (Decommissioning Funding Group).]], EU nuclear operators estimated that more than EUR 120 billion will be needed for nuclear decommissioning over the next 30 years. Hence, there is a powerful economic incentive to fund development and uptake of more efficient industrial applicable technologies. Moreover, the decommissioning of nuclear research facilities and nuclear fuel cycle facilities will need the development of innovative technologies.

The nuclear industry has not adequately exploited or implemented current technological capabilities, certain hands-on human activities within harsh radiation environments remains to be replaced and outdated technology are often used while performing decommissioning projects. The roadmap for decommissioning research (drafted under Euratom NFRP-2018-6) is going to provide guidance on the mid-term steps needed for the development of relevant knowledge within the in-homogeneous European NPPs landscape. Need for improved and efficient decommissioning strategies and technologies is pressing and the challenge is to capitalize European experience, make more effort on innovation, get in front of technological developments and bring them to bear on decommissioning in particularly efficient manners.

This action is expected to stimulate innovation and promote a robust world-leading decommissioning sector based on EU safety culture and know-how, taking advantage of promising innovative technologies that could contribute to timely and cost-efficient decommissioning on the basis of ensuring safety as well as protecting the workers, the public and the environment.