Areva has successfully disassembled the reactor pressure vessel (RPV) in the project to dismantle the Wuergassen nuclear power station. The cutting work, which started in June 2009, was completed at the end of February 2010.

Experts cut the 320-ton RPV in more than 250 individual parts using techniques including waterjet cutting. During the WJC process, jet of a water-abrasive-sand mixture cut the 14cm thick steel with high pressure. The process was remote-controlled process, which meant that the radiation exposure of the workers at the site is kept extremely low. During peak times, up to 80 staff were involved in the project.

After the cutting, approximately half the parts were decontaminated and released for recycling. The remaining 50% of the material was packaged into containers and prepared for disposal in the Konrad nuclear waste repository. Areva says it made optimum use of the container volume and saved 10% of the containers.

Plant operator E.ON Kernkraft commissioned Areva with the dismantling of the RPV in 2008. Intensive planning was required to prepare for the project and specialist tools had to be developed to cut the 15m high steel structure, Areva said.

“The success of the project in Wuergassen is proof of the high level of professionalism with which Areva is also involved in the dismantling business. This business field is an important component of our competency in the entire fuel cycle,” states Ulrich Graber, management spokesman for Areva in Germany.

The Wuergassen nuclear power station with a power output of 670MW operated from 1971 to 1994. The decision to decommission the plant was made in 1995. Dismantling started in 1997 and due is to be completed by 2014.

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