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Decommissioning Research Reactor BER II

Decommissioning and Dismantling

The Berlin experimental reactor BER II of Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie (HZB) reached the end of its planned lifecycle and was shut down permanently at the end of 2019. The date for its shutdown had been finalised by the HZB Supervisory Board in 2013.

Reaktorbecken BER II mit Kern, © HZB / B. Ludewig

Core and reactor basin in BER II, © HZB / B. Ludewig

This means that the dismantling stage for BER II is coming ever closer. There is a complex approval and participation process involved. Numerous detailed applications have to be written and submitted to the competent authorities for appraisal. Only with the official Decommissioning and Dismantling (D&D) Approval can dismantling of the reactor commence.

Future use of the experimental infrastructure

Some tasks will be able to be completed already outside the D&D Approval process. One example is taking down the experimental stations where researchers performed their experiments right up until the reactor was shut down. In the majority of cases, these stations will be sent to other research institutions for continued use. Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin is working to preserve and transfer its know-how in their experimental use.

Since the reactor shutdown, the fuel elements, which generated the neutrons for research operations up until December 2019, have been housed in the storage pool. Following receipt of the D&D Approval, they will be transported to the interim storage station Ahaus (“Transportbehälterlager Ahau, TBL-A”) as an important prerequisite for full dismantling of the reactor.

Dismantling until end of the 2020s

HZB’s dismantling team will spend the next few years developing the exact plans for the dismantling in every detail. Great importance must be given to the reactor pool and its technical components. The current plans involve disassembling the components in the reactor pool under water and appropriately packing them for final storage.  Then, the pool structure itself will be dismantled using special concrete saws. Those parts of the concrete that were in proximity to the reactor core will have to be taken to the repository pit for medium and low level radioactive waste, the “Schacht Konrad”.

The plan is for BER II to be fully dismantled by the end of the 2020s.