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IAEA Workshop on Radiation Protection During Nuclear Power Plant Decommissioning; Vienna, Austria, June 16-19, 2014
Posted on June 24th, 2014

Internationally, several nuclear power plants (NPPs) are performing or planning for decommissioning of their facilities. The number of NPP decommissioning projects is expected to increase as aging plants go off line in the coming years.  Decommissioning projects are unique in that they expose workers to a variety of hazards beyond radiation exposure, due to the nature of the activities performed when dismantling and disposing of reactor components and contaminated materials.   Currently, there is insufficient guidance on the anticipated radiation protection challenges during decommissioning activities.  As the need exists to protect workers from all hazards related to decommissioning, the IAEA has commenced a project to address decommissioning risk management with the goal to strengthen protection from all occupational risks present in decommissioning environments.

The IAEA invited a select group of nuclear plant operators, service providers and radiation protection experts who are engaged in operational radiation protection to participate in a Workshop on Radiation Protection during Nuclear Power Plant Decommissioning.  This workshop was held in Vienna, Austria, from June 16-19.  Eric Darois of RSCS was the only US participant in this workshop that included other radiation protection professionals from Canada, Denmark, Bulgaria, Belgium, France, Germany, India, Japan, Lithuania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, and The UK.  

RSCS has obtained valuable insight and radiological project management expertise through participation in the decommissioning of most of the nuclear plants throughout the US and several in the UK over the past 19 years. Their risk based management approach has improved worker safety and benefited the decommissioning schedules of several sites, including recent work at the Magnox and Bradwell sites in the UK.  RSCS Health Physicists have also been the principal contributors to several EPRI guidance documents in the US related to radiological controls and decommissioning activities. 

At the IAEA workshop, international radiation protection experts shared best practices on Radiation Protection Program requirements, operational tools for occupational radiation protection, safety assessments of radiological and industrial hazards, and coherent approaches for the management of decommissioning occupational hazards.  Eric Darois leveraged RSCS’ decommissioning experience and expertise and presented on two topics: “Implementing Radiological Work Control Programs during Decommissioning” , and, “The Risks Associated with Managing Alpha Contamination from Actinides (Transuranics) in the Decommissioning Environment”.  Mr Darois noted that it was evident from the meeting that very similar challenges exist across the world to decommissioning nuclear sites.  Differences identified were related to country-specific regulatory structure and rules as well as radioactive waste disposal constraints.  It was also evident that global radiation protection professionals all have a similar ethic and drive to implement strong and effective radiation protection principles for the nuclear decommissioning projects worldwide.

The outcome of this workshop will be the compilation of best practices for occupational radiation safety into a summary that will be used as a basis for drafting guidance materials.  The IAEA’s objective for this two year project is a comprehensive TEDOC focused on occupational radiation protection in decommissioning environments.

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