Dismantling of nuclear power plants

With over 50 years of experience in the nuclear industry, Heitkamp is one of the foremost contractors for the safe demolition of nuclear power plants.

In the context of what is known as the "Energiewende" (energy revolution), the German government took the decision in March 2011 to pull out of nuclear energy generation. In accordance with that deci-sion, existing nuclear power plants must be disconnected from the energy grid by no later than the end of 2022.

The dismantling of a nuclear power plants is a complex process that takes ten years or more. The shut-down can be subdivided into a number of phases, for which individual approvals will need to be obtained. While one part of the dismantling is taking place, a number of operational systems will still be required, such as the ventilation and filter systems, electricity and water supplies, lifting gear for the handling of larger plant components, environmental monitoring, water treatment and waste treatment. The exact sequence in which the work is carried out will especially be determined by the type of reactor involved, as well as by spatial considerations.

The actual dismantling of the power plants can generally be subdivided into 5 phases:

  • Phase 1: Dismantling of parts of the plant that are no longer required during the residual operating period of the plant, preparation of subsequent stages of dismantling, creation of the necessary in-frastructure
  • Phase 2: Dismantling of the major components within the reactor safety container, especially the steam generators
  • Phase 3: Dismantling of the reactor pressure container (with lid), the core internals, the biological shield, together with other systems and components
  • Phase 4: Dismantling of the remaining contaminated components, certification that components are free of contamination, release of the remaining structures from monitoring in accordance with the legislation governing nuclear power
  • Phase 5: Conventional demolition of the buildings

For Heitkamp, the dismantling of nuclear power plants and other nuclear installations is no longer unexplored territory, as we have been heavily involved in the dismantling of nuclear power plants for many years.

Stade nuclear power plant

Taking the Stade nuclear power plant as an example, we were able to examine technical approaches to the demolition of the fuel element storage pool. Those investigations included the

  • dismantling of the pool top
  • separation of metallic substances
  • generation of building rubble
  • dismantling of pipelines
  • removal of liners
  • removal of the infill concrete in the pool floor
  • packaging of radioactive material

By far the largest part of the residues arising during the dismantling process (metal scrap and building rubble) can be recycled, can re-enter the materials cycle or be disposed of in the conventional way by placing it in a landfill site. Weakly and moderately radioactive waste is sent to an interim storage facility, until such time as a final repository for highly radioactive waste becomes available in Germany.

Mülheim-Kärlich nuclear power plant

We developed the following technical solutions for the dismantling of the nuclear power plant in Mühlheim-Kärlich:

  • The removal and disassembly of roof beams
  • Concrete cutting work on walls
  • Protective decontamination

In the future, the engineers from Heitkamp will continue to devote themselves to the dismantling of nuclear power plants and to developing and implementing technical concepts for that purpose.