With the demand for decommissioning of ageing nuclear power plants in Europe increasing, Mammoet, a global market leader in engineered heavy lifting and transport, sees playing a key role in those projects.
“As a global organisation, we have worked in all kinds of power plants, including nuclear, and see lots of differences. However, there are also many similarities – in terms of security or training and how we deal with the local requirements. This is a key strength for Mammoet,” said Jan Kleijn, COO of Mammoet, who has worked with nuclear clients across the world to help meet their demands for the lifting and transportation of large objects with millimeter precision.
“We work with local partners across territories to ensure we’re fully informed of all relevant local requirements. In addition, we have a centralised unit here in the Netherlands, with years of combined expertise and knowledge from our core team of experts,” said Kleijn in a conversation with Yves Brachet, a leading independent nuclear energy specialist, who has over forty years of experience in decommissioning plants, working across a range of projects and in both cask design and licensing.
As the world transitions away from fossil fuels, demand for electricity is forecast to rise significantly; in some scenarios demand is predicted to double over the next 30 years. Industry will move away from gas and coal as key energy sources, while domestic users will demand vehicle charging facilities and heat pumps to replace the use of gas boilers.
Nuclear energy has a key role to play in ensuring sufficient electricity is generated to meet these needs. In fact, the IEA predicts that nuclear power generation will see a 75% increase by 2050.
Yet regions like Europe face a nuclear power crunch. Many existing plants are ageing, built as long ago as the 1970s with a typical lifespan of around 40 to 50 years. These assets will need to be replaced in the coming decades for the continent to meet its energy transition goals, which means decommissioning work will become more widespread.
The challenges in decommissioning are completely dependent on the type of plant. For example, a lack of data on the research reactors is common with plants built fifty or sixty years ago. For more recently built plants the challenge is more likely to be the space available, which is typically narrow; working in such confined spaces to remove the large components, such as pressure valves, is a logistical challenge, said Brachet.
Klieijn said the role for Mammoet is rather obvious. One of the biggest problems with nuclear decommissioning is the small circle of organisations involved. There are nuclear people working with other nuclear people using established nuclear techniques.
Mammoet’s extensive experience working in other industries means it can add its expertise and knowledge into this small nuclear circle. This is exactly what’s needed in the nuclear industry; bringing outside experience in to improve the process and decrease the cost.
“We are involved in many new build nuclear projects around the world, with different types of reactors. We are also involved in maintenance and see a lot of similarities with decommissioning. For example, when carrying out maintenance we are required to replace large steam generators, and must engineer a solution that works, and that complies with local regulations.”
Klieijn notes that it is extremely important to be involved at the early stages of a project to develop the most effective plan – the right plan for dealing with a specific problem, so that we can then come up with a specific solution.
“We see developments in an industry and adjust what we do, such as developing equipment to meet the specific requirements of that industry. If an industry is evolving, and weights increase from 500 tonnes to 1,000 tonnes or even 2,000 tonnes, we develop equipment to accommodate the requirements of our clients. A good example of this is Chernobyl. After the disaster, the plant was covered with concrete.
“After several years when another shelter was needed, we carried out lifting of the panels and developed a special skidding system to move the whole roof in a single piece over the whole power plant.
“Everybody thought it was impossible. But we said, no it is possible. However, it took years of preparation, talking with all the people involved, about what was needed and what the requirements and criteria were. We were then able to come up with a technical solution, which we then built and executed,” he said.
SAFETY IS PARAMOUNT
In the whole industry one is seeing that safety is becoming more and more important. Mammoet strives to be a market leader in many areas, but it wants to be known definitively as the market leader in the safe execution of heavy lifting and transportation projects.
This has a lot to do with the standard of training the firm delivers to its people and project partners - it’s important that people are well-trained, for the skills they need to deliver projects safely and efficiently, said Kleijn.
Regarding costs Kleijn said: “If we are involved late in a project when decisions have already been made, we’re merely providing the equipment. However, if we are involved early on in a project at the planning stage we can be a part of the total solution and come up with the most optimised plan, drawing on our collective experience from around the world from different industries. Time is also an extremely important factor and has huge implications on the cost of decommissioning. If we can reduce the length of a project our costs may be higher, but the total cost would be lower because we can reduce the total decommissioning time by 10-20%, which is huge.
Mammoet has worked in all types of reactors. It has worked in different countries, with all kinds of different concepts of reactors. From Siemens, CANDU and GE.
Regarding the time taken for decommissioning, Kliijn said it really depends on the country, but as a rule it’s about fifteen years. Roughly speaking there’s five years for the preparation, licensing, and evacuating the spent fuel in the plant. Then another ten years working on site to physically dismantle the plant.
Even when limited space is available, Mammoet cranes can be used. “We have extensive experience of lifting and transporting very heavy pieces of machinery and equipment in very confined spaces. We typically use existing cranes or develop new solutions to meet specific requirements. We see space limitations as a challenge,” Kleijn added.
Mammoet is at the World Nuclear Exhibition in Paris from November 30 until December 2. -- TradeArabia News Service