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Decommissioning a nuclear power plant after its use (courtesy: YouTube videos)

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Decommissioning a nuclear power plant after its use (courtesy: YouTube videos) Empty Decommissioning a nuclear power plant after its use (courtesy: YouTube videos)

Post by Seva Lamberdar Sun Mar 07, 2021 2:25 pm

The nuclear reactors are a great source of a relatively cheap and unlimited power. The major expenditure on nuclear energy is for the nuclear reactor and infrastructure for power plant initially and dismantling and storing safely for a long time the radioactively contaminated materials (the spent reactor fuel and other components in the power plant) following the 30 to 40 years of reactor operation.

While the initial expenditure for a nuclear power plant is easy to understand in terms of complexity and expenditure, not many people understand the difficulty and expense involved in dismantling a nuclear power plant and safely storing its radioactively contaminated components after shutdown, after the nuclear power plant is no longer able to produce electricity economically and the components of reactor start failing and breaking down.

The nuclear power plant uses fuel rods (bundles / packets) made from a radioactive material (such as uranium) to produce heat through nuclear fission inside the reactor. The energy (heat) from nuclear reaction inside the reactor is used to heat water to turn it into high pressure steam which drives a turbine-cum-generator to produce electricity which, using wires, is transmitted for use by people, business and industry.

Even though the nuclear fuel initially, before its insertion inside reactor tubes, is safe and easy to handle, it become extremely toxic and radioactive once inside the operating reactor. Besides obtaining energy in the form of heat (to heat water) during nuclear fission inside the reactor, there is tremendous release of radioactivity (in the form of rays and particles) which are deadly to humans, animals and vegetation. Moreover, the radiation and radioactive particles from nuclear reaction contaminate the fuel rods and everything else in vicinity (including materials, equipment, solids and liquids inside the reactor), making them deadly and radioactive.

The unacceptably high level of radioactivity and danger to humans from leftovers of nuclear reaction go down rather slowly and can last for decades (even centuries) after the shutdown of nuclear reactor (power plant). Thus there is a long term need to avoid radioactive contamination of atmosphere, soil and water from these nuclear reactor components (spent fuel, component and equipment etc.) after reactor shutdown, lest they pose danger to humans (death, sickness, injury, cancer etc.), animals and vegetation.

Thus, unlike other industries and factories which can be easily and quickly dismantled, restored, replaced or turned into other applications after their use, the nuclear power plants (sites and equipment etc.) cannot be quickly and easily restored, replaced and put to other uses after the shutdown because of safety considerations (danger of radioactivity and radioactive contamination).

The nuclear power plants after shutdown thus involve careful, safe, time consuming and expensive decommissioning and dismantling, requiring the reactor components (spent fuel, equipment, solids, liquids) to be removed safely and stored in situ or remotely (underground or in water) over a long time (until they acquire safe levels in radioactivity and are no longer hazardous to humans, animals and vegetation). The following YouTube video sheds light briefly on the problems and issues related to decommissioning and dismantling a nuclear power plant after its use.

Seva Lamberdar
Seva Lamberdar

Posts : 6575
Join date : 2012-11-29

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