Dismantling of the Vandellós I Nuclear Power Plant

The Vandellós I nuclear power plant is located in the municipality of Vandellós i L'Hospitalet de l'Infant, in Tarragona. It began commercial operation in 1972, under the responsibility of the Spanish-French company Energía Nuclear S.A. (Hifrensa). In 1989, after 17 years of operation, the plant was shut down by Ministerial Order.

Timeline

  • 1990

    Ministerial Order for final shutdown, setting the conditions for maintaining the plant in safe shutdown.

  • 1991

    Start of Hifrensa’s Stage 1 dismantling.

  • 1994

    Submission by Enresa of the Dismantling and Decommissioning Plan for Vandellós I.

  • 1997

    End of Stage 1 tasks.

  • 1998

    Approval of the Dismantling and Decommissioning Plan for the plant.

    Transfer to Enresa of the ownership of the plant.

    Start of Stage 2 dismantling.

  • 1999

    Approval by the Nuclear Safety Council of the Dismantling Plan for Radioactive Parts and start of work.

  • 2000

    Confinement and sealing of the concrete pressure vessel.

    2000

    Confinement and sealing of the concrete pressure vessel.

    First shipment of low and intermediate level waste resulting from the dismantling to El Cabril Disposal Facility.

    End of the Material Clearance Process Test Plan.

    Start of infrastructure works for the dormancy period.

  • 2001

    Start of shipments of cleared materials to recycling plants.

    Assembly of the weatherproof protective structure for the concrete pressure vessel.

    Submission to the Nuclear Safety Council of the regulatory documentation for the dormancy period.

  • 2002

    Approval by the Nuclear Safety Council of the surface clearance and combined clearance methodology.

    End of the dismantling of the reactor’s external structures.

  • 2003

    End of Stage 2 dismantling of the Vandellós I nuclear power plant.

Dismantling

Enresa carried out the dismantling of the Vandellós I nuclear power station between 1998 and 2003; this was the first dismantling of a Spanish nuclear power plant and one of the first in Europe.

The dismantling and decommissioning of the Vandellós I nuclear power plant became an international benchmark. Stage 2 dismantling was successfully completed in 2003, in accordance with the terminology of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). This consisted of the removal of all buildings, systems and equipment outside the concrete pressure vessel.

The concrete pressure vessel, without nuclear fuel, has been sealed and will remain so for a period of 25 years. During this dormancy period, the radioactivity of the internal structures will decay naturally, facilitating their complete dismantling under optimal security conditions, as cost-effectively as possible.

Aerial views of Vandellós nuclear power plant after dismantiling
Aerial views of Vandellós nuclear power plant before dismantiling
Move the controller to change between before/after

Dismantling and Decommissioning: Step by Step

Following International Atomic Energy Agency guidelines, the dismantling and decommissioning project for the Vandellós I nuclear power plant comprises the following stages:

Stage 1: Pre-conditioning Activities (1991-1997)

After the plant’s final shutdown, the owner, Hifrensa, carried out the unloading of the reactor, the removal of spent fuel, the conditioning of the operational waste and the extraction of waste stored in graphite silos.

In addition, they dismantled the carbon dioxide tanks and the main turbo-alternator sets.

Stage 2: Dismantling of Structures and Preparation for the Dormancy Period

Enresa undertook the Stage 2 dismantling of the Vandellós I plant in two phases:

First Phase (February 1998 - February 1999)
  • The site was conditioned ready for dismantling.
  • Unnecessary conventional structures were removed from the site.
Second Phase (March 1999 - June 2003)
  • The Dismantling Plan for Radioactive Parts was implemented, involving the disassembly of all structures, components and systems except for the concrete pressure vessel, which was confined and covered by a purpose-built protective structure.
  • The dismantling of conventional components continued.
  • The Clearance Plan was implemented to ensure that the conventional materials were not contaminated and could be managed as conventional waste.
  • The conventional waste was transferred to recycling centres and specialised waste dumps, and the low and intermediate level waste was sent to El Cabril Disposal Facility.

Stage 3: Dismantling of the Concrete Pressure Vessel

The plant’s final decommissioning phase will be carried out by Enresa at the end of the dormancy period, around 2028, and it will consist of the removal of the concrete pressure vessel and all the internal structures. The site will be released completely.

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