atw - International Journal for Nuclear Power | 04.2021

Ever since its first issue in 1956, the atw – International Journal for Nuclear Power has been a publisher of specialist articles, background reports, interviews and news about developments and trends from all important sectors of nuclear energy, nuclear technology and the energy industry. Internationally current and competent, the professional journal atw is a valuable source of information. www.nucmag.com

Ever since its first issue in 1956, the atw – International Journal for Nuclear Power has been a publisher of specialist articles, background reports, interviews and news about developments and trends from all important sectors of nuclear energy, nuclear technology and the energy industry. Internationally current and competent, the professional journal atw is a valuable source of information.



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Nuclear Waste Disposal:

An Exploratory

Historical Overview

Hydrogen –

Important Building Block

Towards Climate Neutrality

10 Years

of Phasing Out Nuclear Power

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atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July

On the Road, Get Set – The Solved Challenge

for Handling Radioactive Waste

Sooner or later in discussions about nuclear energy, the question is raised, “What should be done with the radioactive

waste?” Opponents of nuclear power have been very active here over the years and have, in part, successfully

created a distorted picture of the facts. Above all, the phrase “airplane without a runway for landing” attributed to

nuclear energy clearly shows this. The situation is different from the point of view of nuclear and nuclear technology

and the other disciplines responsible for dismantling and final disposal of the waste. Good solutions are known and

applicable for the challenges of handling and long-term storage of radioactive waste as well as for decommissioning.

However, due to societal and political constellations, their actual implementation is sometimes stymied.

Worldwide, the countries using nuclear energy today also

started dealing with questions of handling radioactive

residues, the “nuclear waste”, about 60 years ago when

they commissioned their first nuclear power plants.

Today, the picture is very different in terms of concepts

and progress. Certainly and obviously, the two Nordic

countries, Sweden and Finland, are clearly leading both

from a technical point of view, i.e. with regard to the

questions of implementing long-term storage, and with

regard to the socio-political framework.

Finland will be the first country in the world to have a

repository for spent fuel elements available at the Olkiluoto

Baltic Sea site on its west coast from around the mid-

2020s, in addition to the VLJ repository, which has been

available for the storage of low and intermediate level

radio active waste since 1992.

This repository is the result of a political and societal

selection and decision-making process on how to deal with

the long-lived radioactive waste from nuclear power, which

has provided about 35 % of the nation's electricity needs

quasi-emission-free for years. Even if situational criticism is

generated primarily from the German-speaking world, the

transparency and implementation of the final disposal

strategy are exemplary. The project for handling radio active

waste in Finland started in 1983, i.e. after the country's four

nuclear power plants, which are still in operation today, four

decades after the start of the plants, went into operation at

the two sites Olkiluoto and Loviisa. Originally, export of

spent fuel was an option, with the possibility of reprocessing

of nuclear fuel. In 1987, geo logical disposal was added, and

the Nuclear Energy Act of 1994 prioritised the national

solution, i.e., disposal only. With future tasks in mind, the

Finnish private sector therefore established Posiva Oy, a

company focused on radioactive waste disposal issues and

implementation. In the first nationwide step, the repository

strategy included a site search with accompanying environmental

impact assessment. Four sites that were excellent

from a technical or geological point of view were identified,

and Posiva selected the Eurajoki region as the preferred site.

Further parliamentary steps were then taken with this site,

and in May 2001 the Finnish Parliament ratified the

corresponding government bill. As local shareholders were

given extensive rights in the site selection process, local

politicians also had the opportunity to veto the proposal.

However, the Eurajoki Council voted 20 : 7 in favour of

establishing the repository.

In 2004, the closer site exploration began with the first

facilities of the site designated ONKALO. At a depth of 400

to 430 meters, the repository is to be emplaced in the

bedrock of the Finnish granite. In December 2012, Posiva

applied for construction of the repository and associated

additional facilities for packaging the fuel assemblies.

In 2015, the Finnish government granted the permit. Currently,

Posiva plans to submit the permit for the operation

of the ONKALO repository to the government by the end of

2021, so the stated time horizon for the first emplacement

seems realistic.

Technical figures for the project to date indicate the

spiral access tunnel from the surface to the deepest part of

the mine, plus four vertical shafts for personnel, the eventual

emplacement canister transport, and ventilation. By 2020,

some 10 km of tunnel systems will have been excavated

from the granite, with a further 40 km to be added during

the emplacement operation. The radioactive waste will be

stored using the Swedish KBS-3V method. This system

ensures, on the one hand, the multi-barrier system for

sealing the repository canisters; the fuel assemblies are enclosed

in canisters which are sunk into vertical boreholes

and sealed with bentonite. A special feature of the overall

concept is also that a possible retrieval of the stored repository

canisters is envisaged from the outset; this is intended

to include the option that materials regarded as “waste”

today may be regarded as valuable materials for new

reactors or fuel concepts in the future. Fuel assemblies are to

be disposed about 40 years after discharge from the reactor

and appropriate interim storage. By then, heat generation

will have decreased significantly and radioactivity will have

dropped to about one-thousandth of its original value. The

final storage canisters are also to be loaded at the site.

Construction of the “Encapsulation Plant” began in 2019.

Certainly, these are all largely known facts, which have

also been summarised here before. The endless expanses

of today's media provision and discussions in the so-called

“social media” of the World-Wide-Web leave doubts about

the balance of one or the other “fact finder”.

The topic of plant decommissioning in nuclear

technology almost got lost in the background here. This is

also part of the “natural” operating cycle of a plant. After

the political termination of the peaceful use of nuclear

energy in 2022, 36 power reactors in Germany will be

decommissioned. At three sites, Kahl, Großwelzheim and

Niederaichbach, the status of “greenfield sites” has already

been reached, i.e. no facilities of the former plants are left –

what more can be said about the feasibility of an allencompassing

dismantling? However, dismantling also

offers a still possible potential for new technologies, even if

it often involves disassembling, cleaning and separating.

When it comes to “waste”, the journey certainly began

with the operation of the first nuclear power plants. But it

was by no means a journey into the unknown, and nuclear

power was and is the only large-scale form of energy

generation that offers solutions for all its wastes and has

also priced in the associated costs.

Christopher Weßelmann

– Editor in Chief –




On the Road, Get Set – The Solved Challenge for Handling Radioactive Waste

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July




Issue 4




On the Road, Get Set – The Solved Challenge

for Handling Radioactive Waste 3

Inside Nuclear with NucNet

Explainer: Why the Belarus Nuclear Station

has Caused Tensions with the EU 6

Did you know? 7

Calendar 8

Feature | Decommissioning and Waste Management

Nuclear Waste Disposal: An Exploratory Historical Overview 9

Marcos Buser


Steam generator removal in Neckarwestheim

Unit 1 NPP (Courtesy of EnBW Kernkraft GmbH)


“The Beast” – special band saw from Höfer & Bechtel

for RPV dismantling (Courtesy of GNS Gesellschaft für

Nuklear-Service mbH)

Interview with Rita Baranwal

“One of our Priorities at EPRI is to Continue Making a Difference

with Respect to Innovating, Including in Nuclear Energy” 15

Serial | Major Trends in Energy Policy and Nuclear Power

Hydrogen – Important Building Block Towards Climate Neutrality 19

Hans-Wilhelm Schiffer and Stefan Ulreich

Energy Policy, Economy and Law

The Energy Charter Treaty at a Crossroads – Uncertain Times

for Energy Investors 30

Max Stein

Ireland Must Assess Domestic Nuclear Energy 35

Allan Carson

At a Glance

The ERDO Association

for Multinational Radioactive Waste Solutions 38

Decommissioning and Waste Management

10 Years of Phasing Out Nuclear Power, 10 Years of Decommissioning,

Dismantling and Transformation – How the Nuclear Power Segment

of EnBW Has Successfully Reinvented Itself 40

Jörg Michels

Circular Economy – Lessons Learned, from and for Nuclear 45

Edward Kee and Ruediger Koenig with collaboration by Geoff Bauer and Julien Halfon

Waste-informed Decommissioning in the USA, UK and Slovakia 48

Antonio Guida

TRIPLE C Waste Container for Increased Long-term Safety

of HHGW Disposal in Salt, Clay and Crystalline 54

Jürgen Knorr and Albert Kerber

Concreting in Hot Cells – as Illustrated by the Example

of a Central French Waste Treatment Plant 63

Joel Bauer

Error Reduction in Radioactivity Calculation for Retired Nuclear Power

Plant Considering Detailed Plant-specific Operation History 67

Young Jae Maeng and Chan Hyeong Kim

Research and Innovation

Czech Scientists to Recycle Fuel from Operating Nuclear Power Plants

to Use for District Heating 74

Radek Skoda

News 76

Nuclear Today

Waste Not, Want Not – Innovations in Decommissioning Expertise

Deserve to be in the Spotlight 82

Imprint 52


atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July


Decommissioning and

Waste Management

9 Nuclear Waste Disposal:

An Exploratory Historical Overview



Marcos Buser

Interview with Rita Baranwal

15 “One of our Priorities at EPRI is to Continue Making a Difference

with Respect to Innovating, Including in Nuclear Energy”

Serial | Major Trends in Energy Policy and Nuclear Power

19 Hydrogen – Important Building Block Towards Climate Neutrality

Hans-Wilhelm Schiffer and Stefan Ulreich

Energy Policy, Economy and Law

30 The Energy Charter Treaty at a Crossroads – Uncertain Times

for Energy Investors

Max Stein

Decommissioning and Waste Management

40 10 Years of Phasing Out Nuclear Power, 10 Years of Decommissioning,

Dismantling and Transformation – How the Nuclear Power Segment

of EnBW Has Successfully Reinvented Itself

Jörg Michels

Research and Innovation

74 Czech Scientists to Recycle Fuel from Operating Nuclear Power Plants

to Use for District Heating

Radek Skoda


atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July




David Dalton

NucNet –

The Independent Global

Nuclear News Agency


Explainer: Why the Belarus Nuclear

Station has Caused Tensions with the EU

The plant supplier, Russia’s Rosatom, says facility conforms

to international standards

The background: There are two Russia-supplied VVER V-491 pressurised water reactor units

at the Belarusian site, near the town of Ostrovets, 50 km east of the Lithuanian capital Vilnius and

near Poland, Latvia and Estonia. Construction of the first began in November 2013 and of the

second in April 2014. Unit 1 has now begun commercial operation with Unit 2 to follow. The cost of

the two units, largely funded by a loan from Russia, has been reported as $11bn (€9bn).

Why is Belarus building a nuclear power station? In 2002,

Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko said Belarus

did not want a nuclear power station. After an energy

dispute in 2007 – which began when Russian state-owned

gas supplier Gazprom demanded an increase in gas prices

paid by Belarus – Lukashenko changed his mind, deciding

that Belarus needed its own nuclear station to ensure energy

security. Because of its modest natural resources, Belarus

relies on imports from Russia to meet most of its energy

needs. According to the International Energy Agency,

in 2018 only 15% of the country’s energy demand was

met by domestic production, making Belarus one of the

least energy self-sufficient countries in the world. The

new nuclear station is expected to meet about 40 % of

Belarus’ domestic electricity demand when it is fully


The controversy Three Baltic States and EU members

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have expressed concerns, as

has the EU itself, about safety at the nuclear station. Russia’s

state nuclear corporation, Rosatom, which is building the

facility, has rejected claims the facility is unsafe, saying the

design conforms to the highest inter national standards. In

2020, Lithuania also said Belarus had not met obligations

under the Espoo Convention, which ensures international

cooperation in assessing and managing the environmental

impact of planned activities. Lithuania says the site, chosen

in 2008, is unsuitable because it is less than 100 km from

major cities. Belarus says it has gone to “ extraordinary

lengths” to ensure international cooperation and to justify

the choice of the Ostrovets site.

What’s the latest on safety? The European commission

said it is “regrettable” that Belarus has decided to start

commercial operation of Belarusian-1 without addressing

all the safety recommendations contained in the EU’s 2018

peer review of Belarus’s stress test report. The peer review

listed a number of areas that needed improvement or

clarification. They included seismic robustness, loss of

electrical power and ultimate heat sink, and severe accident

management. A national action plan prepared by Belarus in

2019 and submitted to EU nuclear safety body the European

Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (Ensreg) covered work to

be done in a number of areas, including seismic robustness,

alternative AC power sources, emergency water supply,

various safety related design characteristics and an assessment

of the reliability of the passive heat removal system.

The adoption by Ensreg of a preliminary report on the peer

review brought to a close the first phase of the peer review.

But the commission has said a second phase would cover

outstanding recommendations.

What political measures is the EU proposing? The EU

wants to synchronise the Baltic states’ electricity networks

with the European network via Poland, a project for which it

has committed €1bn. This would free the Baltic states of

their need for electricity from Belarus and its new reactors.

The EU says synchronisation is “a cornerstone and one

of the most emblematic projects of the Energy Union, a concrete

expression of European solidarity in energy security”.

Whilst formerly an “energy island”, the Baltic states region

is now connected with European partners through recently

established electricity lines with Poland, Sweden and

Finland. For historical reasons, however, the Baltic states’

electricity grid is still operated in a synchronous mode with

the Russian and Belarusian systems. As a legacy of the Baltic

states’ past as involuntary members of the Soviet Union, the

mains frequency of their IPS/UPS power system is controlled

from Moscow. This means that Russia’s regime could

switch ff the Baltics’ power while Baltic operators scramble

to restore power with local means. According to The

Economist, Russia has not explicitly threatened a Baltic

blackout. The Kremlin has, however, occasionally cut off

hydrocarbon exports. Russia could add grid power to its

“strategic coercion” repertoire, especially if political

upheaval led its leaders to seek support by manufacturing a

crisis abroad, said Tomas Jermalavicius, formerly a planner

at Lithuania’s defence ministry.

What has Russia said? Rosatom says the station’s design

conforms to standards set by the International Atomic

Energy Agency. It insists it “has a zero-tolerance policy on

corruption and an internal control system that ensures

that any illegal or inappropriate practices are stopped and

prosecuted.” It argued that the project’s launch would help

reduce the region’s carbon emissions by up to 10 million

tons of CO 2 equivalent every year. “We are working closely

with Belarus’s national nuclear regulator, the World

Association of Nuclear Operators and Ensreg to make

absolutely certain that there are no unaddressed risks or

threats to safety,” Rosatom has said in a statement.

And Belarus? Belarus noted that the Ensreg peer review

gave its stress tests an “overall positive” mark and provided

the Belarusian regulator with recommendations to be

included in a national action plan. Ensreg gives similar

recommendations to all EU member states’ nuclear

regulators. “National action plans usually take from three

to 10 years to implement and the implementation of the

plan is not a condition on which licensing and operations

of nuclear power plants normally depend,” a statement

said. The statement added: “It is also worth noting that

Belarus voluntarily agreed to conduct EU nuclear safety

stress tests and get the results peer-reviewed by Ensreg,

although as it was not part of the EU it didn’t have an

obligation to do so.” Olga Lugovskaya, head of Belarusian

nuclear regulator Gosatomnadzor, said recently Belarus is

expecting a series of international safety and security

reviews this year.

Inside Nuclear with NucNet

Explainer: Why the Belarus Nuclear Station has Caused Tensions with the EU

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July

Global Energy Investment and Decarbonisation – IEA Flagship Report

In its recent Flagship Report “World Energy Investment 2021” the

International Energy Agency (IEA) analyses the structure of

energy investment of the past years and compares the portfolio

structure of fuel investment to the investment structure necessary

to comply with decarbonisation scenarios such as the Net Zero by

2050 Scenario (NZE), the Sustainable Development Scenario

(SDS) or the Stated Policies Scenario (STEPS) of the IEA. While the

estimated investment in oil and natural gas is about in line with

the SDS and not far off NZE, the investment in coal is much too

high even compared to the most moderate scenario STEPS, that is

based in carbon limitation/reduction commitments of states in

the framework of the Paris Climate Convention. On the other side

the investment in biogas/biofuels and hydrogen both based on

electrolysis and steam reforming with CCS is too low particularly

compared to SDS and NZE. In the electricity sector investment is

about in line only with STEPS though even by this standard there

is too much investment in fossil fuel generation without CCUS and

not enough investment in nuclear. Investment in renewables and

grid infrastructure does fit STEPS. The Paris agreement climate

targets though require more ambitious decarbonisation paths

such as modeled in SDS and NZE. Compared to such scenarios the

overinvestment in fossil fuel becomes very pronounced as well as

the current underinvestment in nuclear. SDS and NZE also would

require much higher investments in renewables and the electric

grid globally. Still, in the past years some major changes in

investment in the electricity sector took place. The most

pronounced were the reduction of global final investment

decisions for coal fired power plant from 95 GW capacity in 2015

to just 20 GW capacity in 2020 and for gas fired power plants

from almost 80 GW capacity in 2015 to 55 GW in 2020.

While investment in energy efficiency and electrification did not

change very much on average during the past years they did

increase moderately but constantly in the building sector.

Remarkably over half of the global efficiency and electrification

investment in buildings since 2015 took place in Europe.

Concerning electric vehicle sales, China accounted for half of sales

from 2015 to 2019, but in 2020 Europe took the lead with over

50 per cent of global EV sales. The global market share of EVs

remains moderate though with 4 per cent in 2020. Despite these

developments the investment in end-use and energy efficiency

lags behind farthest from ambitious decarbonisation scenarios.

When comparing the actual investment in the period 2016 to

2020 to the scenario period 2026 to 2030 the investment would

have to be more than doubled in STEPS, increased three and a

half times in SDS and almost fivefold in NZE. In 2021 there will be

a sharp increase in the capacity of newly installed hydrogen

electrolyzers due to important government programms to jump

start a hydrogen economy. The added capacity in 2021 is

expected to reach some 280 MW compared to 60 MW in 2020.

The graphs below show the energy investment in the power and

the fuel sectors in 2015 and the estimated figures for 2021 for the

world and in Europe respectively.

7Did you know?


Energy Investment Europe

in billion USD (2019)

Energy Investment World

in billion USD (2019)

p 2015

p 2021 (estimated)

p 2015

p 2021 (estimated)



















Gas and




Gas and

























World Energy Investment

2021, International

Energy Agency, 2021















Low Carbon
















Low Carbon










For further details

please contact:

Nicolas Wendler


Robert-Koch-Platz 4

10115 Berlin


E-mail: presse@



Did you know?

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July






Online Conference 20.07. – 22.07.2021



Online Conference 03.08.-04.08.

and 10.08.-11.08.2021

International Uranium Digital Conference 2021.

AusIMM, www.ausimm.com

Online Conference 04.08. – 06.08.2021

ICONE 28 – 28 th International Conference on

Nuclear Engineering. ASME,


27.09. – 30.09.2021

European Nuclear Young Generation Forum

(ENYGF). Tarragona, Spain, ENYGF, www.enygf.org

27.09. – 01.10.2021

NPC 2021 International Conference on Nuclear

Plant Chemistry. Antibes, France, SFEN Société

Française d’Energie Nucléaire,



EURAD General Assembly n°5. EURAD,

Virtual Conference, www.ejp-eurad.eu

24.01. – 26.01.2022

12 th International Symposium – Release of

Radioactive Materials – Provisions for Clearance

and Exemption. TÜV NORD Akademie in

Cooperation with TÜV NORD EnSys, Frankfurt,

Germany, www.tuev-nord.de

25.08. – 27.08.2021

KONTEC 2021 – 15 th International Symposium

“Conditioning of Radioactive Operational &

Decommissioning Wastes”. Dresden, Germany,

atm, www.kontec-symposium.de

25.08. – 03.09.2021

The Frédéric Joliot/Otto Hahn Summer School

on Nuclear Reactors “Physics, Fuels and Systems”.

Aix-en-Provence, France, CEA & KIT, www.fjohss.eu

Postponed to 30.08. – 03.09.2021

International Conference on Operational Safety

of Nuclear Power Plants. Beijing, China, IAEA,


06.09. – 09.09.2021

NENE 2021 – 30 th International Conference

Nuclear Energy for New Europe. Nuclear Society

of Slovenia in association with the Jožef Stefan

Institute, Bled, Slovenija, www.djs.si/nene2021

Online Conference 07.09. – 09.09.2021

Management systems for a sustainable nuclear

supply chain. Foratom,


Hybrid Conference 08.09. – 10.09.2021

3 rd International Conference on Concrete

Sustainability. Prague, Czech Republic, fib,


08.09. – 10.09.2021

World Nuclear Association Symposium 2021.

London, UK, WNA, www.wna-symposium.org

13.09. – 15.09.2021

14 th International Symposium on Nuclear and

Environmental Radiochemical Analysis. EURAD,

York, UK, www.ejp-eurad.eu

13.09. – 15.09.2021

DEM 2021 – International Conference on

Decommissioning Challenges: Industrial Reality,

Lessons Learned and Prospects. Sfen, Avignon,

France, www.new.sfen.org

15.09. – 17.09.2021

G4SR-3 – 2 nd International Conference on

Generation IV and Small Reactors. Canadian

Nuclear Society, Online Conference, www.g4sr.org

22.09. – 23.09.2021

VGB Congress 100 PLUS. Essen, Germany, VGB

PowerTech, www.vgb.org

26.09. – 30.09.2021

RRFM 2021 – European Research Reactor

Conference. ENS, Helsinki, Finland,


04.10. – 05.10.2021

AtomExpo 2021. Sochi, Russia, Rosatom,


Online Conference 04.10. – 06.10.2021

ICEM 2021 – International Conference on

Environmental Remediation and Radioactive

Waste Management. ANS, https://www.asme.org

12.10. – 13.10.2021

TotalDECOM 2021. TotalDECOM, Manchester, UK,


16.10. – 20.10.2021

ICAPP 2021 – International Conference on

Advances in Nuclear Power Plants. Khalifa

University, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates,


19.10. – 21.10.2021

ICOND 2021 – 10 th International Conference

on Nuclear Decommissioning. AiNT, Aachen,

Germany, www.icond.de

Postponed to 24.10. – 28.10.2021

TopFuel 2021. Santander, Spain, ENS,


26.10. – 28.10.2021

VGB Conference Chemistry. Ulm, Germany, VGB

PowerTech, www.vgb.org

01.11. – 12.11.2021

COP26 – UN Climate Change Conference.

Glascow, Scotland, www.ukcop26.org

Postponed to 07.11. – 12.11.2021

PSA 2021 – International Topical Meeting on

Probabilistic Safety Assessment and Analysis.

ANS, Columbus, OH, USA,


Postponed to 30.11. – 02.12.2021

Enlit (former European Utility Week and

POWERGEN Europe). Milano, Italy,


30.11. – 02.12.2021

WNE2021 – World Nuclear Exhibition. Paris,

France, Gifen, www.world-nuclear-exhibition.com

Postponed to 28.02. – 04.03.2022

20 th WCNDT – World Conference on

Non-Destructive Testing. Incheon, Korea,

The Korean Society of Nondestructive Testing,


06.03. – 11.03.2022

NURETH19 – 19 th International Topical Meeting

on Nuclear Reactor Thermal Hydraulics. SCK·CEN,

Brussels, Belgium, www.events.sckcen.be

29.03. – 30.03.2022


Leipzig, Germany, KernD and KTG,


04.04. – 08.04.2022

International Conference on Geological

Repositories. Helsinki, Finland, EURAD,


Postponed to Spring 2022

4 th CORDEL Regional Workshop – Harmonization

to support the operation and new build of NPPs

including SMR. Lyon, France, World Nuclear

Association, https://events.foratom.org

04.05. – 06.05.2022

NUWCEM 2022 – 4 th International Symposium

on Cement-Based Materials for Nuclear Wastes.

Sfen, Avignon, France, www.new.sfen.org

15.05. – 20.05.2022

PHYSOR 2022 – International Conference on

Physics of Reactors 2022. ANS, Pittsburgh, PA, USA,


22.05. – 25.05.2022

NURER 2022 – 7 th International Conference

on Nuclear and Renewable Energy Resources.

ANS, Ankara, Turkey, www.ans.org

10.07. – 15.07.2022

SMiRT 26 – 26 th International Conference on

Structural Mechanics in Reactor Technology.

German Society for Non-Destructive Testing,

Berlin/Potsdam, Germany, www.smirt26.com

This is not a full list and may be subject to change.


atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July

Nuclear Waste Disposal:

An Exploratory Historical Overview

Marcos Buser

A brief review of the development of radioactive waste management concepts The success

or failure of projects or programs depend largely on the quality of the ideas and concepts developed. If these prove to be

inadequate or prone to error, their deficiencies and shortcomings rebound on such programs and projects after a certain

period of time and result in serious and expensive consequential damage and costs. Often, when problems occur,

planners and project managers still try to salvage such projects or programs by taking technical measures to mitigate the

undesirable and negative effects. However, if the weak points are inherent in the conception, even these downstream

support and accompanying measures are of little help. A cycle occurs between efforts to remedy consequential damage

and the emergence of new incidents and difficulties. Finally, it becomes apparent that conceptually flawed projects can

no longer be salvaged. The bitter end of such projects is thus foreseeable.

For many decades, the disposal of radioactive and

chemo-toxic waste also followed this trend of trial and

error. Many of these highly toxic wastes were deposited in

landfills built in old gravel, sand or clay pits or in quarries

above groundwater-rich layers. Planners and operators of

such facilities were initially not particularly concerned

about the effects of such disposal sites, given the great

dilution of the pollutants in the groundwater or the

sorption properties of the subsoil. Only the increasing,

sometimes severe, pollution of groundwater and watercourses

(NEA 2014) led to a gradual rethinking and a stepwise

move away from such practices. Attempts to secure

such waste storage sites at groundwater-rich locations

using sequential barriers such as base and surface seals

failed, as did measures to filter or immobilize contaminants

on site. Finally, over the course of a few decades,

many of these properties gradually had to be partially or

completely excavated and remediated. These developments

show that the perception of such projects and their

impacts can change and shift fundamentally over time.

The extent of consequential damage can be exem plified

by early disposal practices at U.S. nuclear complexes, such

as that at Hanford, Washington. The liquid wastes, some of

which were treated and placed in steel tanks or in trenches

and leach pits from the 1940s onward (Figure 1), have

resulted in widespread contamination of ground and

stream waters that now require complete cleanup of the

vast site over the next half century. Costs, originally one of

the key variables in the choice of disposal measures, are

now growing immeasurably at this site. For Hanford,

worst-case estimates for continued cleanup expenditures

suggest additional funding needs of up to $680 billion

until 2079 (DOE 2019), with upward tendency. Thus,

restoring reasonably adequate protected lands is an

extremely complex, costly, and protracted undertaking.

Whether we consider storage sites for radioactive waste

or landfills for chemo-toxic waste (NEA 2014), the development

of the problems always follow the pattern

mentioned above, where the original storage concepts are

reflected and re-evaluated according to the knowledge at

the time. This rethinking also led to the search for possible

solutions for long-term safe disposal of radioactive waste.

To be sure, starting in the early 1950s, a variety of concepts

were considered on how to deal with highly toxic wastes.

The spectrum of these project ideas was broad, ranging

from disposal of highly radioactive waste in the ocean subsurface,

in oceanic trenches, or (later) in subduction zones

of oceanic plates, to sinking in the ice caps of the poles or,

| Figure 1

Type of disposal facilities used in Hanford, Washington, according to Pearce, D. W., et. al. (1959).

The amounts of deposited fission products (FP) in the figure are given in Ci (c). (1 Ci = 37 GBq).

starting in 1957, disposal in space (Hatch 1953, Bürgisser

et al. 1079, Milnes 1985, EKRA 2000, Appel et al. 2015).

But all these concepts, with one exception, can be

characterized as academic pipe dreams that could not be

reconciled with practical reality. In 1957, the National

Academy of Sciences finally brought a preliminary decision

in the search for repositories of radioactive waste on land

and in the sea in two reports that were remarkable for that

time (NAS 1957a, 1957b). These analyses were to open the

way for the strategy of dis posal in underground repositories

and for the sub- seabed disposal project (see later:

Anderson 1979). Initially, the search for reposi tories

focused on old salt mines, which were pursued mainly in

the USA and Germany and which would lead to the

projects at Lyons, Kansas, and those at Asse II near

Wolfenbüttel and at Morsleben, Ingersleben, in Western

and Eastern Germany respectively. Their difficulties and

eventual failure required a rethinking of the path taken.

Above all, the failure of the Lyons project ( Walker

2006/2007) was to prove extremely conse quential. Thus,

a number of fundamental insights and changes in the

specification of nuclear waste management concepts can

be attributed to the 1970s. They relate to five areas in


p The planning and the research: Especially from the

mid-1970s, the responsible authorities began to




Nuclear Waste Disposal: An Exploratory Historical Overview ı Marcos Buser

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July


structure the search for repositories for radioactive

waste. Significant preliminary work was done by the

relevant U.S. administrations. In the winter of 1976, the

Energy Research and Development Administration

(ERDA), which had taken over the reins of nuclear programs

from the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) the

year before, announced a broad new program for the

dis posal of radioactive waste from both civilian and

military facilities (Hofmann 1980). After a restructuring

in 1977, this task fell to the newly formed Department

of Energy (DOE), which thus took over the fate of the

National Waste Terminal Storage (NWTS) Program.

This period saw two fundamental changes: first, the

search for repositories in disused mines was abandoned

and the focus shifted to underground facilities specifically

designed for the disposal of radioactive waste.

Second, systematically structured research programs

were launched, as documented by the Earth Science

Technical Plan for Mined Geologic Disposal developed

by DOE and the associated U.S. Geological Survey in

1979 (DOE&USGS 1979). It is the first research

program to set out to find geologic repositories with

clear objectives and process methods. Significant

foundational work on site selection and repository

design emerges in this context.

| Figure 2

Investigated repository configurations and connection systems for the final disposal of high-level

radioactive waste in the geological subsurface in the Swedish program. Finally, the KBS-3 system was

selected (SKB 2000).

p Site selection: The planning of repositories specifically

for radioactive waste also required a process of site

selection. The failure of the repository project at the

Carey Salt Mine in Lyons in the early 1970s was a major

factor in restarting a site research program (Walker

2006/2007). Beginning in the mid-1970s, the U.S.

Department of Energy published extensive studies on

the specific site selection and narrowing process

envisioned in the United States (DOE 1979), which

defined the governing process stages in the search for

and determination of suitable sites for repositories for

high-level radioactive and transuranic waste, which

anticipated the search processes initiated in Switzerland

in 2008 (Sectoral Plan for Deep Geological Repositories)

or in the Federal Republic in 2017 (Site Selection

Act). The first repository that was sought according to

such process specifications was the Waste Isolation

Pilot Plant (WIPP) in the Permian Delaware Salt Basin

in the south-central United States. The adventurous history

of this site search is traced in Mora (1999) and Alley

et al. (2013).

p The repository concept: Beginning in the 1970s, two

competing concepts begin to gain acceptance: the

geologic repository at depths of a few hundred meters

and the deep borehole concept, which pursues

emplacement of canister-packed high-level radioactive

waste even at greater depths of a few kilometers. Both

concepts persist to the present day, although today

there is a clear preference among most countries for the

repository mine option at depths of 500 meters to a

maximum of 1,000 meters. An important role in

shaping the repository concept was played by the

Swedish KBS program, which developed various

repository variants starting in the mid-1970s and

presented more concrete projects for high-level reprocessed

or non-reprocessed waste (KBS 1979a, 1979b,

see Figures 2 and 3). This layout of repositories at a

depth of a few hundred meters will be followed by most

of the later developed repository programs of other

countries, as we will see soon.

| Figure 3

SKB concepts for high-level waste with connection options by shaft or ramp. On the left, according to the original concept with shafts (Ministry of Industry, n.d.),

on the right with ramp and shafts from the mid-1990s (SKB, 1993).


Nuclear Waste Disposal: An Exploratory Historical Overview ı Marcos Buser

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July

p Long-term effects and monitoring: The uncertainties

in the development of a repository were also recognized

at an early stage, which led to the fact that not

only different operating phases were envisaged over the

closure of a repository, but also the monitoring of these

phases by means of suitable monitoring programs were

addressed (LBL 1978). Even if concrete monitoring

programs were only developed at a later time, it is

evident that the basic idea of long-term monitoring

found its way into the concrete repository concepts at a

relatively early stage.

p Structures: Finally, it should be pointed out that the

question of structures was also the subject of fundamental

discussions as early as the 1970s. The U.S.

Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 introduced clear

functional divisions between executive and supervisory

roles in a program. A not inconsiderable contribution

for this development was certainly also made by the

realization that clear separations of roles and functions

and further a clean definition of terms of reference

were able, if not to prevent, then to control in the

broadest sense possible deficits in the management of

specific programs, as had occurred at the American

Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). Structural issues

again played a role in the 1990s, although certain basic

questions regarding the governance of waste management

programs remained unanswered.

Finally, it is important to note the changing social context

during this decade. The 1970s, still characterized by a

strong expansion of nuclear energy, also witnessed

the emergence of an strong opposition that addressed the

unresolved issues of nuclear waste management (Buser

2019). As the longtime director of Oak Ridge National

Laboratory, Alvin Weinberg, himself later acknowledged,

nuclear energy-friendly institutions had underestimated

the problem of radioactive waste management and its

effect on society (Weinberg 1994, p. 277). The 1970s were

therefore a decade in which, under the watchful eye of a

society that was becoming critical, the appropriate

corrective measures were introduced to the disposal


Brief overview of the international

development of actual disposal concepts

As mentioned above, the Swedish concepts for specially

excavated and equipped underground radioactive waste

repositories published in the late 1970s and early 1980s

represented a turning point in efforts to find concrete

solutions for the final disposal of radioactive waste in the

geological subsurface. For the first time, a fully developed

concept for the permanent safe confinement of this waste

over geological periods of hundreds of thousands of years

and more was presented. It was essentially based on the

further development of early ideas and was now oriented

towards a model of series-connected barriers (multibarrier

concept), which could delay the dispersion of

radioactive materials by a system of immobilization and

packaging measures and suitable geological site characteristics

to such an extent that the amount of radiation

released to the environment by the repository was far

below legally defined limits. This concept was de facto

adopted by all countries using nuclear energy. Over the

next two decades, in addition to the Nordic countries

Sweden and Finland also France, Switzerland, Belgium,

USA, Canada and Japan developed similar concepts. Other

countries, such as Great Britain, Spain or Holland, followed

the same concepts, but postponed the concrete programs

for political or social reasons. The election of Ronald

Reagan as U.S. president and the strong protests at the

time against disposing of radioactive waste in the ocean or

seafloor led to the abandonment of the sub- seabed disposal

project, which – regardless of its debatable objectives – had

been pursued as an international project conducted with

great scientific care. Although the option of disposing of

high-level waste in deep boreholes remained as a reserve

option, and solution approaches such as partitioning and

transmutation or long-term interim storage over periods of

several hundred years were repeatedly evaluated and

discussed, the concept of a geological repository at

hundreds of meters in depth has largely prevailed – at least

until today. It should be noted that certain countries, such

as Russia, have their own disposal practices, such as

injecting radioactive liquids in deep underground


Basically, all projects pursued today assume similar

designs of the repository (Table 1). With a few exceptions

for example Belgium, which wants to place its

high-level waste in a shallow marine clay formation

( Argiles de Boom) – the vast majority of concepts and

projects assume repositories at depths of 500 meters and

more in crystalline rocks or salt or clay formations. There

are also exotics in the host rocks, for example in the

programs pursued so far in the USA (tuff, Yucca Mountain

Nevada). But the range of variations in the relevant

planning framework conditions are small. The most visible

differences are the proposed transport routes to the

subsurface, which are via ramps in the French and Nordic

projects. While the storage configurations may vary

slightly, the differences are limited to, for example, the

horizontal or vertical emplacement of the storage canisters.

The chosen canister or backfill materials were adapted to

specific geochemical characteristics of the subsurface

(e.g., copper canisters in crystalline rocks or OPC cement

over-canisters in the Belgian concept). Thus, all these

projects are no longer concerned with fundamental

conceptual issues, but with specific optimizations that are

now to be clarified within the framework of in-depth

research programs.

The lower part of Table 1 lists further planning requirements

that are currently under discussion in various

programs. One example is the question of monitoring a

high-level repository. In this context, Switzerland is

pursuing a concept developed by the expert group

“ Disposal Concepts for Radioactive Waste” around the year

2000 (EKRA 2000), which ties in with the ideas of isolation

and monitoring phases developed 20 years earlier (e.g.

LBL 1978). It is the concept of the pilot repository, which is

intended to hold a representative waste fraction of the

main repository and should be monitored over an extended

period of time (Buser et al. 2020). EKRA pursued two goals

with the idea of the pilot repository: on the one hand, the

understanding of uncertainties in repository development

was to be increased by monitoring programs and, if

necessary, to be able to intervene in the repository process

at an early stage should the decisive development parameters

in the repository develop differently. On the other

hand, the pilot repository concept was an essential element

in building confidence with the local communities. The

EKRA concept became an integral part of the Swiss Nuclear

Energy legislation, which was enacted in 2003. So far, no

other country has joined this concept, although the issue

of long-term monitoring has been in the focus of attention

for almost 20 years (e.g., “Modern“ program of the EU,

see Bertrand et al. 2019). However, direct underground



Nuclear Waste Disposal: An Exploratory Historical Overview ı Marcos Buser

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July

Sweden Finland France Switzerland Belgium Germany Canada Japan


Depth of repository ≥ 500m ≥ 400m ≥ 500m ≥ 500m ≥ 220m ≥ 500m ≥ 500m ??

Rock type crystalline crystalline claystone claystone clay not defined crystalline sediments

Disposal galleries Ç Ç Ç Ç Ç Ç Ç Ç

Acess shafts (infrastructure) Ç Ç Ç Ç Ç Ç Ç Ç

Acces shaft (waste transport) Ç Ç Ç ? Ç Ç

Ramps (waste transport) Ç Ç Ç


p Vitrified HLW

p Spent fuel (PWR, BWR, Candu, ...)

p Others (TRU-wastes)



| Table 1

Overview of some nuclear Waste Disposal programs, compilation based on the published documents of the different companies.

monitoring beyond the closure of the main repository is

not envisaged at the moment.

Nonetheless, it is evident in other areas that there is a

need for further fundamental clarification and innovation.

In the course of the past two decades, the discussion therefore

shifted to other topics. First, on the possibilities of using

specific computational models to simulate the

development of material flows or the resulting dose loads

in the environment on the basis of realistic assumptions.

Today, this aggregate method is the main computational

model-based tool on which decisions for licensing a repository

by regulators and political authorities are based.

The key variable on which these decisions are based is

confidence. This is the essence of the so-called ‘safety case’:

“When it comes to long-term predictions we get out from

the narrow scientific domain. A mixture of quantitative

and qualitative analyses and arguments (still sciencebased)

will have to be provided to engender confidence of

both the provider and the reviewer” (Pescatore 2008). The

‘safety case’ is a good example of what Alvin Weinberg

understood by trans-science (Weinberg 1972): a project

between science and politics that can no longer provide

definitive scientific answers to the questions posed, such as

safety or long-term safety, and leaves or must leave the

decisions to politics – or to society (Buser 2002). In this

sense, disposal programs for radioactive waste with their

long lifetimes transcend the limits of exact scientific

research and, in this sense, necessarily lead to social


Two fields closely linked to these questions are the

social participation in such programs and the question of

reversibility of decisions. While in the first decades of

nuclear technology scientists and experts, respectively the

political and technical authorities in which they worked,

were the unchallenged and definitive bearers of decisions,

the decision-making processes have increasingly shifted in

the direction of societal participation. This is evidenced

not least by the efforts that have been underway for about

two decades to create so-called forums of stakeholder






Storage canister (e.g. steel, copper) Ç Ç Ç Ç Ç Ç Ç Ç

Canister position: Vertical Ç Ç Ç Ç

Canister position: Horizontal Ç Ç Ç Ç Ç Ç Ç

Backfill / buffer (e.g. bentonite,

OPC based concrete)




Ç Ç no Ç Ç Ç Ç Ç

Special monitoring facilities no no no pilot facility no no no no

Retrievability after closure (years) ?? no possible no ?? 500y ?? ??

Marker programs possible no possible Ç ?? not defined ?? ??







confidence (NEA 2000, 2004, Kaiserfeld et al. 2020). The

creation of such exchange platforms follows the realization

that undertakings such as nuclear waste management

require the approval of the affected population (Di Nucci

et al. 2017). In recent years, two major site selection processes

have been launched in Switzerland and Germany

that institutionalize the participation of affected populations.

However, the forms of this participation differ

greatly from country to country. Nevertheless, it can be

assumed that forms of discussion and decision-making will

increasingly shift toward the affected communities in the


The reversibility of decisions plays a special role in

questions of social trust-building. The principle of

reversibility of decisions and retrievability of waste from a

geo logical repository was already under discussion in the

late 1970s (Zen 1980), but it was not until the French

legislation of 1991 (loi Bataille) that it acquired the

corresponding legal significance (Buser 2014). Meanwhile,

the principle of reversibility has been widely

accepted as a component of waste management programs

(IAEA 1999, NEA 2012). Due to the numerous failures in

the disposal of highly toxic wastes, the participation of

affected populations as well as the willingness to fundamentally

reverse decisions represent essential tools for

creating acceptance. This is a development that is

undoubtedly in the spirit of the time.


Nevertheless, the successful conceptual, methodological

and practical developments of the various disposal

programs in the last decades should not obscure the

problems that repeatedly appear on the way to concrete

implementation. For about 20 years, various setbacks,

some of them severe, have had to be accepted on this path

of implementation of deep geological repositories. This

concerns in particular four underground facilities. Fundamental

problems, however, are likely to arise in the future

in further underground projects and through the







Nuclear Waste Disposal: An Exploratory Historical Overview ı Marcos Buser

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July

development of technology. At two of these facilities – the

experimental repository for low- and intermediate-level

waste at Asse II near Wolfenbüttel (Lower Saxony) and its

sister project Morsleben (Ingersleben, Saxony-Anhalt) –

conceptual weaknesses from the early days of nuclear

waste disposal can be blamed for the problems (see Buser

et al. 2020). However, disclosure of water inflows into

mines has been kept under wraps for decades, unnecessarily

straining social acceptance and likely placing entirely

new demands on the transparency and quality insurance

of underground projects. In the case of the chemo-toxic

Stocamine underground waste disposal site (Wittelsheim,

Alsace), it was the operating and control system set up that

did not work, and ultimately led to the definitive abandonment

of the project via an underground fire in 2002. The

social and political consequences of this case continue to

this day. The last serious accident to date occurred at the

Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP, Carlsbad, New Mexico)

and shut down the repository for several years starting

in February 2014. In this case, again, serious failures in

operational management were responsible for the

problems (Klaus 2019). The trigger was an incorrectly

conditioned 50 gallon drum that reacted chemically and

blew up. This incident highlights the challenges of conditioning

and manufacturing storable waste containers

and the complexity of managing a storage system during

its operational life. A basic problem about this incident is

the fact that other drums conditioned in this manner

remained underground, fundamentally reopening the

question of the reversibility of such a backfilled facility.

If we consider the disposal of highly toxic waste in the

deep underground as a whole, the disposal of highly

toxic radioactive waste or chemo-toxic waste cannot be

separated. Both types of repositories are based on similar

concepts, although, with the exception of Stocamine, none

of the repositories for chemo-toxic waste have been

constructed in specially excavated mines. Notwith standing

this undoubtedly relevant difference, similar phenomena

are evident in operational risks (e.g., fire and explosion

scenarios), transport of materials, and transport phenomena

into and out of the deep geological sub surface.

Social resistance at the specific repository sites are

currently growing in view of the problems encountered

(water inflows in the old salt mines, gas leaks of stored

pollutants). Science and official institutions are facing the

same challenges as with the disposal of radioactive waste –

misconceptions and wrong decisions from the past are

becoming visible and are catching up with the debate on

permanent and safe disposal and final storage of highly

toxic waste.

But future radioactive or other waste projects face

similar challenges. Licenses or facility construction say

nothing about the long-term success of a repository project.

The techniques and models developed must be tested and

implemented on an industrial scale. Here, too, enormous

challenges await the planners and operators of such facilities.

In addition, new challenges arise, for example, from

technical developments, environmental changes or social

reorientations. Above all, technical development not only

has the potential to support pro cesses better or to show new

approaches to solutions. Technology can also create new

problems, as the example of the development of drilling

technology in the last decade shows. If the intrusion risks

into a repository at a depth of a few hundred meters seemed

to be somewhat manageable – despite the severe accident

in Lake Peigneur (Louisiana) in 1980 (see Perrow 2011) 1 –

the vulnerability of a deep geological repository will

increase massively due to the revolutionization of drilling

technology. The originally envisioned marking programs

for repositories will not be able to meet this challenge in the

future and will likely be replaced by a system with active

monitoring measures at the surface. It is one of many

examples that show that the search for definitive sites for

repositories will become even more complicated in the

future, and new answers to new questions will emerge. At

the same time, the rapid pace of technological development

should also enable new approaches to solving the

complex tasks of nuclear waste disposal.


So how should all these challenges and uncertainties be

dealt with in the future? As stated at the beginning of this

paper, ideas as well as concepts change in the course and

according to the contexts of time. Reliable medium-term

forecasts about the development of technical systems and

alternatives are hardly possible today. In particular, the

enormous potential for technical development could

become one of the key variables in the future direction of

solutions for the disposal of the accumulated radioactive

inventory. In addition, there are the great challenges

associated with the governance of complex, socially

demanding programs (see EKRA 2002), which can only be

successfully implemented in a questioning and learning

step-by-step process. Be that as it may: at present, planning

for geological repositories at depths of 500 m is likely to


However, it makes sense to look for other options. In the

foreground is the second storage option for waste in deep

boreholes of more than 5km depth. From a technical point

of view, the prerequisites for the further development of

such a solution are probably available. But in this case, too,

similar questions arise as in the case of a repository project

at a depth of 500m. The geology and hydrogeology must

be explorable with sufficient certainty. The entire barrier

system must be made fit for much larger physical and

chemical stresses before any thought can be given to

actually implementing such an option. The inventory, with

potentially weapons-grade plutonium and americium

isotopes, will also determine the storage life of this solution

attempt in this case. The safety case for such a project is

likely to place even higher demands on the reliability of the

transport and dispersion models developed than is already

the case for the “shallow” repository option.

Furthermore, there are still the options of a longer – but

underground – interim storage (over 100 to 300 years),

which would give more time to follow developments in

science and technology and to pursue new treatment or

immobilization techniques. In addition, there is still the

question of the feasibility of developing transmutation

technologies on industrial scale. We can therefore be

curious to see what developments will take place in the

next one or two generations and to what extent society is

finally prepared to follow more sustainable paths of a real

prevention or genuine circular economy in the waste sector

as well. We can only hope that our institutions will make

use of the opportunities to react flexibly to new situations

and to fundamentally adapt disposal programs in a

forward- looking manner.


1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3cXnxGIDhOA


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| Weinberg, A. (1972). ‘Science ans Transscience.’ Minerva 10.

| Weinberg, A. (1994). ‘The First Nuclear Aera. The Life and Times of a Technological Fixer. AIP Press.

| Western, F. (1948). ‘Problems of Radioactive Disposal’. Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee.

Nucleonics, August 1948. p. 43.

| Zen E-An (1980). ‘Dedicated-site, interim storage of high-level nuclear waste as part of the

management system.’ Proceedings National Academy of Science, Vol 77, nr. 11.


Marcos Buser

Institut für nachhaltige Abfallwirtschaft INA GmbH,

Zurich, Switzerland


Marcos Buser, geologist and social scientist, has been working in the field of

nuclear energy and chemo-toxic hazardous waste management for more than

40 years. He oversees major waste projects in Switzerland as well as in neighboring

countries and works closely with universities, research institutes, international

institutions, government agencies and private engineering firms. Marcos Buser was

chairman/member of expert commissions, such as the EKRA expert commission for

the Swiss repository concept (1999 – 2002), the Swiss Federal Commission for

Nuclear Safety (2008 – 2012) or several expert commissions in the field of industrial

landfill remediation. He was president of the control commission of the international

Mont Terri research laboratory for radioactive waste. He is involved in

projects in the field of underground disposal / disposal of hazardous chemical-toxic

wastes in former salt mines. Marcos works as an expert for various institutions,

writing studies and publishing books on issues related to the final disposal of

highly toxic wastes and the consequences of toxic waste disposal for future

societies. His sociological studies focused on structural and governance issues in

the environmental area.


Nuclear Waste Disposal: An Exploratory Historical Overview ı Marcos Buser

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July

“One of our Priorities at EPRI is to Continue

Making a Difference with Respect to

Innovating, Including in Nuclear Energy”

Interview with Rita Baranwal ı Vice-President, Nuclear and Chief Nuclear Officer

of the Electric Power Research Initiative, EPRI



What are your strategic priorities for the Nuclear

Office at EPRI with respect to the national U.S.

perspectives and programs as well as the international


EPRI is an independent, nonprofit organization that

provides industry expertise and collaborative value to help

the electricity sector identify any issues and gaps in

technology and serve broader needs through effective

research and development programs – all in the context of

benefitting society. What truly led me to join EPRI in

January 2021 was its public-purpose mission and its global

research and development leadership. EPRI is more than

just nuclear, and that is another reason why I was drawn to

this organization – to learn more about the rest of the

generation sector and also learn more about grid reliability

and power distribution around the world.

One of our priorities at EPRI is to continue making a

difference with respect to innovating, including in nuclear

energy. Our sector does it relatively well now, but I want to

continue advancing nuclear R&D. This is part of the need

to change how we’re doing business in this industry. The

nuclear sector more or less quietly chugged along for the

past 40 years, and that used to be fine.

But things have changed over the past

five to ten years and now it’s important

to move quickly and more nimbly

in technology transfer. We need to

continue to leverage technology that

was not invented in the sector when

it’s beneficial. When it comes to innovation, we need to be

failing fast, pivoting, and moving on to the next iteration of

a concept to better utilize technology. That’s a bit at odds

with the fairly conservative nature of the nuclear industry.

This approach requires finding that delicate balance

where we tell our researchers and staff, “Yes, every

calculation you do that the fleet depends on has to be

100 % perfect.” They’re relying on perfection. But then we

turn around and say, “OK, as you’re in the lab and you’re

developing the next technology or the next widget, fail

fast, apply those learnings, and move on.” These two

Rita Baranwal

We need to continue to

leverage technology

that was not invented in the

sector when it’s beneficial.

Vice-President, Nuclear and Chief Nuclear Officer

of the Electric Power Research Initiative, EPRI

Dr. Rita Baranwal is Vice President of Nuclear and Chief Nuclear Officer. She has

overall management and technical responsibility for the research and development

activities conducted by EPRI with its global membership related to nuclear


Baranwal joined EPRI in January of 2021 and leads a sector that provides research

and development (R&D) to more than 80 percent of the world’s commercial

nuclear fleet.

Before joining EPRI, Baranwal served as Assistant Secretary for the Office of

Nuclear Energy in the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). She led efforts to promote

R&D on existing and advanced nuclear technologies that sustain the U.S. fleet of

nuclear reactors and enable the deployment of advanced nuclear energy systems.

Prior to the DOE, Baranwal directed the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in

Nuclear (GAIN) initiative at Idaho National Laboratory. Under her leadership,

GAIN positively impacted over 120 companies by providing state-of-the-art R&D

expertise, capabilities, and infrastructure to support deployment of innovative

nuclear energy technologies.

Before GAIN, Baranwal was director of technology development and application

at Westinghouse.

Baranwal is a Fellow of the American Nuclear Society.

She has a bachelor’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in

materials science and engineering and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in the same

discipline from the University of Michigan.

messages need to be carefully balanced, and I look forward

to building this into our approach at EPRI.

Another priority is to ensure that nuclear’s role

in worldwide decarbonization efforts is realized and

appreciated. It’s always been a clean energy source, but we

haven’t typically talked about it in this way and we need to.

Moving quickly also applies to the way

in which we talk about nuclear’s role

in our global clean energy future. I’ve

seen improvements with this over

the past five years and the industry

continues raising the bar. Everyone

communicates it in their own way, but

the point is to talk about it. I advocate for folks to talk

about why they are passionate about working in nuclear

and how it benefits the community and the world. When

you have a nuclear power plant, why does it matter? It

creates jobs. It creates tax revenue. It provides clean energy

in terms of electricity, but also now we’re starting to

explore production of hydrogen which can be used in

manufacturing plants and the transportation sector. We’re

starting to impact more than just the electricity sector with

nuclear power. One, if not more, of those facets typically

resonates with the general public. So if we talk about why


“One of our Priorities at EPRI is to Continue Making a Difference with Respect to Innovating, Including in Nuclear Energy” ı Rita Baranwal

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July


we do what we do in those terms, we may change any

misperceptions of nuclear.

Finally, EPRI is placing priority on accelerating the

introduction and delivery of our training initiatives. We’ve

put a lot of work into developing common initial training

programs, so rather than having individual entities amend

or maintain their different training programs, we have a

common program that we can share with our members

who have existing fleets, are updating their fleets, or are

embarking on deploying new nuclear fleets.

EPRI covers almost all technical aspects of nuclear

power, starting with fuel through the whole lifetime

of the plants and back-end. Are there technical

levers for improving the competitiveness of conventional,

i.e. large scale nuclear new build in advanced

economies or is this a purely financial or market

design question?

There are always technical levers that can be used, because

anything leading to a power uprate or similar improvement

reduces the effective cost of the technology. That

being said, the greatest impacts to large light water reactor

(LWR) economics will be related to market design. The top

five cost drivers of nuclear construction are craft labor

costs, civil or structural design, constructibility, materials,

and inspection. EPRI’s research

directly addresses these drivers

in several ways. One way to

reduce labor costs during the

construction phase is through

schedule reduction. Manufacturing

major components is costly and time­ intensive,

and any transformational improvements to reduce the

time to completion for all aspects of the supply chain can

improve overall economics. EPRI is working toward this

through advanced manu facturing techniques during the

fabri cation of reactor pressure vessels. I took a tour of our

lab at EPRI’s Charlotte, North Carolina office during a

recent visit, and it was exciting to see the work happening

there on powder metallurgy-hot isostatic pressing and

electron beam welding.

Our plant modernization program at EPRI explores

how technology transformation is adopted in other

industries. For example, we can leverage what’s happened

in the gas, chemical processing, and

One way to reduce labor costs

during the construction phase

is through schedule reduction.

manufacturing industries, and apply

what we’ve learned to the power sector

to reduce operating costs and simultaneously

improve reliability. The research

results from that work are applicable to

the existing nuclear fleet, as well as new nuclear reactors,

which include hightemperature gas reactors, molten salt

reactors, and liquid-metal-cooled reactors.

EPRI also has programs dedicated to phases of a nuclear

plant’s life. Digital twin technology is one area we’re

working in to enable more digitized plant design,

maintenance, and operations. Much of the guidance and

industry best practices can be applied in both conventional

and new build environments. This knowledge transfer is

especially crucial as more and more designers and

developers of existing plants are retiring and there’s not an

adequate system in place to preserve or transfer their

valuable experience and knowledge. The New Plant

Assistance program engages owner-operators during the

building phase and provides guidance to avoid construction

delays. Startup support, safety assessments, and structural

health monitoring are also part of this program.

The major economic rationale for Small Modular

Reactors and small advanced reactors is serialization

and standardization. This means that next to

reactor design and materials development there

is need for the development of manufacturing

methods and processes. Does this already take

place and what are the challenges for the industry

as well as EPRI?

Yes, there is a need for standardizing manufacturing

methods and processes. Many of these are in development

or being applied, and EPRI’s research is contributing.

EPRI’s Advanced Nuclear Technology (ANT) program

focuses on supporting the deployment of new nuclear

plants. The program’s mission is to reduce risk and uncertainty

through innovation at each stage of the deployment

lifecycle: from siting and design to construction and initial

operations. Specific goals and targets are built into the

program that are focused on facilitating, and ultimately

standardizing, innovative technologies to maximize a

plant’s sustainability, economy, adaptability, and reliability.

In addition to supporting R&D for new reactor technology,

ANT is helping to develop, apply, and strengthen

the methodology and process by informing resource

planning and supporting plant startup. Some of these

activities include: supporting early-stage supply chain

setup to align build requirements with key

resources; creating a framework for riskinformed

decision- making; developing

maintenance and training guidance and

procedures, and collecting, assessing, and

sharing operational lessons learned in the

advanced reactor (AR) environment.

One of the primary challenges is moving advanced

reactors from concept to deployment. There have been

several different types of technologies that have demonstrated

technical promise and feasibility in the past

70 years. None have yet achieved the reliability and

cost-competitiveness of light-water reactors, but the

industry is making enormous progress. It seems like there

is news of collaboration when it comes to testing

and deployment around the world almost every day. We

may not see every developer out there today who is in

the process of developing a concept commercializing

technology. That’s just the nature of new business, right?

Much fewer than 100 % will be

I’m optimistic that we will

see substantial success in the

near future. In this decade.

successful. But given the funding

levels that we are seeing in these

types of technologies from venture

capitalists, philanthropic orga nizations,

and government, I’m

optimistic that we will see substantial success in the near

future. In this decade.

Of course, there are other challenges being addressed.

One example is supply chain readiness, particularly in the

U.S., where existing commercial reactors rely on uranium

fuels with up to 5 % enrichment. Many advanced reactors

require higher assay fuels with enrichment levels of

5 to 20 %. Commercial enrichers currently cannot enrich

above 5 %, so developers rely on down-blending from a

stockpile maintained by the U.S. Department of Energy

(DOE). Proactively engaging suppliers early on in the

reactor design process to keep them abreast of the designs

and requirements is increasingly an industry priority.

There are many new and novel advanced manufacturing

techniques that didn’t even exist 10 to 20 years ago, so to

be able to apply those and design concepts in coordination

with what can be done is really game changing in the


“One of our Priorities at EPRI is to Continue Making a Difference with Respect to Innovating, Including in Nuclear Energy” ı Rita Baranwal

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July

industry. For example, EPRI is currently engaged in a

DOE-funded project to reduce costs and accelerate

deployment of SMRs through improved fabrication

technologies including electron beam welding, powder

metallurgy­ hot isostatic pressing, diode laser cladding,

bulk additive manufacturing, and advanced machining.

Such improvements could produce cost savings of up to

40 % and expedite the SMR manufacturing process to less

than one year.

Another challenge is the

testing infrastructure needed

to qualify materials and

equipment used in advanced

reactors. The current infrastructure

supports the testing

needs for the existing fleet.

However, with new materials and new equipment, the

needs for advanced reactors are different than that of the

existing fleet. Globally, the infrastructure is out there, but

we need more of it.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) recognized

the limitations of the licensing process; it is costly, outdated

and wasn’t developed to accommodate advanced reactors.

That’s especially a deterrent for next-generation nuclear

technologies which require substantial upfront investment

and early feedback from approval agencies. To address

these challenges, the NRC has made massive changes to

the regulatory requirements that will be expected for

advanced reactor deployment. So, the NRC is changing

along with the developer community.

Despite the challenges we’re working through, it is a

really exciting time to be in this industry. It’s because of all

of the technology that is starting to really be leveraged and

come together to help deploy new reactor concepts, for

example. It’s also because nuclear has always been a clean

energy source and must be part of a solution to decarbonization,

not only for states and countries, but the world as a


Another significant opportunity these new technologies

are bringing about surrounds workforce opportunities and

development. Nuclear energy also facilitates energy equity.

SMRs and advanced technology make it easier to serve

populations in very diverse locations. Microreactors are

perfectly suitable for remote communities and for island

communities. Take Alaska, for instance. Right now, they

rely on expensive diesel to be transported in to help

generate electricity for them. If you can

Nuclear has always been a clean

energy source and must be part

of a solution to decarbonization,

not only for states and countries,

but the world as a whole.

envision a micro reactor instead, you are

reducing the reliance on that fossil fuel and

also creating small communities that can

have a microgrid and a microreactor and be

very self-sustained. A similar solution can be

applied to the electricity needs of Puerto

Rico. So those types of scenarios are creating

different markets where a gigawatt-scale

reactor may not be the right fit, and an SMR

or microreactor may be perfectly suitable. It’s very

interesting to see the worldwide attention and hunger that

is out there for new nuclear technology. To me it’s a very

exciting time and a great time to be in the business.

Next to established companies in the nuclear sector

there are a number of start-up companies developing

new nuclear reactor types and concepts. Is EPRI

involved with them on technical challenges?

Yes, and this is exciting, as well. As an independent,

industry- facing research organization, EPRI works to

bridge the gap between R&D at universities, national

laboratories, and technology commercialization through

industry. We’re at the center of some powerful partnerships

and collaborations. A couple come to mind. The U.S.

DOE has provided $5.1 million to fund EPRI’s electron

beam welding research to support NuScale Power’s

SMR design. EPRI is working with Kairos Power on

their ARDP project; EPRI is focused on developing

critical elements of their monitoring and

NDE program and developing guidance for

the basis for their molten salt chemistry


There are others. Southern Company is

looking to build the world’s first fastspectrum

molten salt reactor based on

TerraPower’s molten chloride fast reactor

(MCFR) technology. The MCFR can be scaled up for

commercial use on the grid and could flexibly operate on

multiple fuels, including used nuclear fuel from other

reactors. EPRI is among several entities Southern Company

will work with on this project. We have developed a

visioneering report on scenarios to enable large-scale,

demand- driven, non-electricity markets for advanced


Finally, we recently introduced a Fusion Forum to

demonstrate EPRI’s R&D capabilities in the primary

markets for a commercial fusion power plant to the

growing fusion reactor developer community. We’re also

actively engaged with the U.S. DOE’s INFUSE program

(the fusion counterpart to GAIN) and ARPA-E fusion


Looking into the future beyond 2030: will smaller,

modular NPPs become mainstream and dominant

in the new build market or will there be coexistence

of large and small NPPs?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to address decarbonization.

Success will depend upon balancing nuclear

energy, renewable sources such as wind and solar, and

other clean energy resources. We’ll need to look to a

combination of traditional, larger and existing NPPs, as

well as smaller ones of new design to optimize nuclear

energy production.

At EPRI, we recognize this and are addressing the

opportunities through research focused on supporting

both the existing fleet and facilitating innovative technologies.

When it comes to the

We have developed a

visioneering report on

scenarios to enable largescale,


non-electricity markets

for advanced reactors.

existing fleet, more than 90 percent

of U.S. nuclear plants have been

approved by the NRC for an additional

20 years of operation beyond

their original 40-year license, and

they have demon strated their

capability to continue reliable

operation. Our nuclear sector at

EPRI developed the tech nical basis

and guidance to inform those plant license extensions for

long-term operations, and we’ve developed research goals

for supporting the “hybrid” NPP infrastructure in 2030 and

beyond. These include:

p Establishing international guidance benchmarks for

end-users, utilities and non-electric users

p Establishing design paradigms that are accepted as

standard in the industry

p Publishing topical reports and guidance documents on

use, safety and security requirements for new nuclear

fuels and spent fuels



“One of our Priorities at EPRI is to Continue Making a Difference with Respect to Innovating, Including in Nuclear Energy” ı Rita Baranwal

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July


p Demonstrating artificial intelligence (AI) modeling for

manufacture of high-temperature materials

p Using non-destructive evaluation (NDE) equipment for

inspection and advanced manufacturing techniques

p Developing economic modeling for AR projects

p Supporting supply chain development/refinement for

AR environment

p Leveraging lessons learned in island-decoupling and

modular construction

Which potential is there for non-electricity nuclear

products such as process heat, district heating,

desalination or low-carbon hydrogen production?

There is tremendous opportunity. Current hydrogen

production is 75 Mt. A projected 520 Mt will be needed to

meet demand by 2070 – a seven-fold

increase. (Source: IAEA) Where will

this hydrogen come from? Potentially,

117 Mt could be produced by the

existing fleet. Using 30 % of nuclear

output capacity could yield 35 Mt of

hydrogen. Global support of nonelectricity

uses of nuclear is growing, particularly for

applications working in tandem with other renewable

sources. Although it’s sensitive to market conditions and

government policy, it has great potential for reducing

emissions while boosting nuclear’s bottom line and

expanding integrated energy systems. What’s especially

interesting is that advanced reactors offer different opportunities

than existing light water reactors because of the

higher operating temperature for some designs and the

ability to include specific features in the design phase.

EPRI’s Nuclear Beyond Electricity initiative conducts

research in this area. It explores how nuclear plants can be

an important contributor to the net-zero carbon goals set

by governments and industry and outlines opportunities

for nuclear to best serve the future needs of energy

consumers through energy storage, water desalinization,

grid services, hydrogen production, industrial applications,

operational flexibility, and isotope production. EPRI

issued a Nuclear Beyond Electricity landscape report in

March 2021 that will facilitate an approach to optimizing

the participation of nuclear and other clean energy sources

to serve society in non-traditional ways.

A major obstacle to the development of nuclear

power is the regulatory fragmentation which

weighs more heavily today and in the future for

smaller units than in the past and on large reactors.

Are there initiatives to either unify or mutually

recognize the regulatory frameworks for more

international opportunities and competition among

manufacturers and in the supply chain?

One good example of international collaboration amongst

regulatory organizations is the Memorandum of Understanding

(MOU) that was signed between the U.S. Nuclear

Regulatory Commission and the Canadian Nuclear Safety

Commission in August 2017. That MOU was aimed at

collaborating on technical reviews of advanced reactor

technologies, including SMRs.

reduction by 2035 for the electricity sector. Similarly, the

International Energy Agency’s (IEA) “Net Zero by 2050”

roadmap supports plans for decarbonization.

This is truly exciting news for the nuclear industry and

our work that is so vital to our global clean energy future.

In anticipation of the Biden announcement, EPRI

developed a scenario to determine the degree to which

decarbonization must accelerate in the power, transportation,

buildings, and industrial sectors to achieve the

2030 goal.

To achieve the goal and deliver affordable, reliable, and

equitable energy, EPRI’s preliminary analysis showed

preserving and uprating nuclear to deliver the benefits of

24/7 carbon-free generation among the keys to success.

The “clean, green” benefits of nuclear will help support its

prominent role in both plans, in the

U.S. and globally. Nuclear energy

has a proven track record for providing

24/7 reliability, cost-effectiveness,

scalability, energy services

beyond electricity, jobs and socioeconomic

benefits. Perhaps best of

all, the pledge places nuclear squarely in the center of the

clean energy dialogue and brings oppor tunity for

education and awareness-building.

Preserving and uprating

nuclear to deliver the benefits

of 24/7 carbon-free generation

is among the keys to success.

The mitigation of climate change has been the

major driver of the recent “rediscovery” of nuclear

power globally. In the US debate nuclear was

considered as an important area of geopolitical

competition with China and Russia too. Will we see

a renewed American leadership – as President

Eisenhower´s “Atoms for peace” initiative in the

1950s – in the peaceful use of nuclear power for

both reasons in the future?

I’m optimistic that the answer will be yes. As I mentioned

earlier, nuclear has recently become a topic of conversation

in response to decarbonization goals, and this

presents a unique opportunity for the industry to shift

perceptions, which in many cases are misinformed and

outdated. In many ways, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity

to help EPRI shape attitudes and actions when it

comes to energy sources and applications. It’s up to the

nuclear industry to make the most of it, not only by collaborating

across continents and breaking down traditional

barriers to make all the fantastic research and technology

a reality, but also by sharing our personal passion and



Nicolas Wendler

Head of Media Relations and Political Affairs

KernD (Kerntechnik Deutschland e.V.)


Where do you think the current U.S. administration

with President Biden will head with nuclear given

in their climate policy ambitions?

As we know, the Biden administration has pledged to

reduce U.S. economy-wide carbon emissions to around

50 % of 2005 levels by 2030, with a goal of 100 % carbon


“One of our Priorities at EPRI is to Continue Making a Difference with Respect to Innovating, Including in Nuclear Energy” ı Rita Baranwal

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July

Hydrogen – Important Building Block

Towards Climate Neutrality

Hans-Wilhelm Schiffer and Stefan Ulreich

Introduction This paper describes various methods for the production of hydrogen and estimates the respective

costs. Transport and storage options are described – also with an indication of the expected costs. Additional focus is

given to applications of hydrogen in various sectors of the economy, such as transport, buildings and industry. This

covers the main value-clusters. Political strategies for achieving climate neutrality are increasingly directed at the global

potential that can be increased with growing use of hydrogen. Examples of two types of countries are considered,

demonstrating strategic focus in different directions. One direction emphasises future export opportunities resulting

from increased global demand. The other places focus on the import of hydrogen as a contributor to achieving energy

and climate policy goals. A number of institutions have recently presented updated projections for the longer-term

development of global energy supply. These institutions include international organisations such as the World Energy

Council and the International Energy Agency, consulting and services companies McKinsey, DNV and Bloomberg, and

energy companies BP and Equinor. The results of these studies on the future of hydrogen in different model calculations

are presented. The conclusion is that hydrogen is one of the central building blocks of different paths towards climate


Hydrogen production

There are numerous ways to produce hydrogen. This offers

advantages in terms of secure supply of hydrogen, as

several options can be used in parallel. Further advantages

include enhanced affordability, as the technologies

compete with each other. Currently, most hydrogen is produced

from fossil fuels, mainly natural gas [1]. Electricity

is used to produce hydrogen by water electrolysis, but on a

relatively modest scale, as the cost of electricity consumed

by the production process is higher compared to the cost of

natural gas reforming. In the long term, solar energy, wind

and biomass can be used directly to produce hydrogen [2].

The renewable energy based solutions are currently the

most researched.

Roughly, hydrogen production can be divided into four

different groups:

1. Thermochemical: Some thermal processes use energy

from natural gas, coal or biomass to release hydrogen

from their molecular structure. In other processes, heat

in combination with closed chemical cycles is used

to produce hydrogen from water. In combination

with CC(U)S, climate-neutral hydrogen can also be


2. Electrolysis: Electrolysers use electricity to split water

into hydrogen and oxygen. Electricity generated in a

climate-neutral way can be used immediately.

3. Photolysis: In photolysis, water is split into hydrogen

and oxygen using light. These processes are currently at

a very early stage of research but could offer long-term

potential for sustainable hydrogen production with low

environmental impact.

4. Biological: Microbes and microalgae can produce

hydrogen biologically, e.g. in biogas plants, although

most technologies are still at a very early stage, but they

offer interesting potential.


The reformation of natural gas is a mature technology. In

the USA, over 90 % of hydrogen is produced in this way.

Natural gas contains high proportions of methane (CH 4 ),

together with water vapour it turns into hydrogen and

carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide through a chemical

reaction. The production costs are between 0.9 and

1.9 US$ per kg of hydrogen (US$/kgH 2 ). The water

requirement is 4.5 litres per kgH 2 . [2]

Coal gasification is used to produce hydrogen by first

producing synthesis gas from coal with oxygen and steam

under high pressure and temperature: a mixture consisting

mainly of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. After the

synthesis gas has been purified, additional hydrogen and

carbon dioxide are produced from the carbon monoxide

and steam by means of a so-called shift reaction. The

hydrogen can then be separated, and the highly concentrated

carbon dioxide stream can then be captured

and stored. The production costs are between 1.6 and

2.2 US$/kgH 2 . The water requirement is 9.0 l/kgH 2 [2].

In both of the above-mentioned processes, the carbon

dioxide, which is an unavoidable component of the

chemical process, can be captured and used or stored by

means of CC(U)S. This makes it possible to use fossil fuels

in a (nearly) climate-neutral way. These technologies are

of course particularly interesting for regions with large

resources of natural gas and coal and suitable CO 2 storage

or utilisation. Alternatively or additionally, bio-methane or

biomass can be used.

There are also other processes in this technology class,

such as pyrolysis, solar-thermal hydrogen, auto-thermal

reforming or the Kværner process.


In electrolysis, water is split into hydrogen and oxygen by

means of electricity. The reaction takes place in a so-called

electrolyser. The size of the electrolyser is almost infinitely

scalable. Like fuel cells, electrolysers consist of an anode

and a cathode separated by electrolyte. Different elec trolysers

function slightly differently, mainly due to the

different types of electrolyte. Electrolysis produces

hydrogen and oxygen only, hence the electricity used

largely determines the ecological footprint of the hydrogen


In the polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) electrolyser,

the electrolyte is a special solid plastic material.

Water reacts at the anode to form oxygen and positively

charged hydrogen ions (protons). The electrons flow

through an external circuit and the hydrogen ions

move selectively via the PEM to the cathode. At the



Serial | Major Trends in Energy Policy and Nuclear Power

Hydrogen – Important Building Block Towards Climate Neutrality ı Hans-Wilhelm Schiffer and Stefan Ulreich

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July


| Figure 1

Hydrogen production costs by energy carrier [3].

Source: IEA (2020): Energy Technology Perspectives 2020

cathode, hydrogen ions merge with electrons from the

external circuit to form hydrogen gas [2].

Alkaline electrolysers work by transporting hydroxide

ions through the electrolyte from the cathode to the anode,

producing hydrogen on the cathode side. Electrolysers

using a liquid alkaline solution of sodium or potassium

hydroxide as electrolyte have been commercially available

for many years. More recent approaches using solid

alkaline exchange membranes as the electrolyte have

shown promising results on a laboratory scale [2].

High temperature electrolysis uses solid ceramic

material as the electrolyte. The water at the cathode

combines with electrons from the external circuit to form

hydrogen gas and negatively charged oxygen ions. The

oxygen ions pass through the ceramic membrane and react

at the anode to form oxygen gas [2].

High-temperature electrolysers must operate at

temperatures high enough for the solid oxide membranes

to function properly (about 700 to 800 °C compared to

PEM electrolysers at 70 to 90 °C and commercial alkaline

electrolysers at 100 °C to 150 °C). The high-temperature

electrolysers can effectively use the heat available at these

elevated temperatures (from various sources, including

nuclear energy) to reduce the amount of electrical energy

needed to produce hydrogen from water [2].

The costs of the electrolysis processes are significantly

higher than the thermochemical processes: PEM is

3.5 to 7.5 US$/kgH 2 , alkali is 2.6 to 6.9 US$/kgH 2 and high

temperature electrolysis is 5.8 to 7.0 US$/kgH 2 . Electrolysis

requires between 9 and 15 litres of water per kg of

hydrogen and 50 to 60 kWh of electricity [2].

Obviously, the “classic” thermochemical processes are

much more cost-effective, which explains why they

currently account for the lion’s share of global hydrogen

production. However, electrolysis still offers high potential,

as the technologies are only at the beginning of their

development – moreover, they offer further advantages

because climate-neutral hydrogen can be produced by

using climate-neutral electricity. Cost can be cut by technological

progress and/or through economies of scale of

larger production units.


In photocatalytic water splitting, hydrogen is produced

from water using sunlight and semiconductors. This is also

referred to as artificial photosynthesis. The required

semiconductors can split water with the help of visible

light from the sun. Photobiological hydrogen production

uses microorganisms and sunlight. Green microalgae or

cyanobacteria use sunlight to split water. These processes

are still at the very beginning of their development. They

are promising in terms of an assumed low ecological footprint,

but the technical and economic challenges are



Microbial biomass conversion processes use the ability of

microorganisms to digest biomass and release hydrogen.

As no light is required, these methods are sometimes

referred to as dark fermentation.

In direct fermentation, the microbes produce the

hydrogen themselves. These microbes can break down

complex molecules in many different ways, and the

by-products of some of these processes can be combined by

enzymes to produce hydrogen.

These processes are still very early technologies.

Further research can confirm whether and how they will

also contribute to future hydrogen production. However,

promising results have already been achieved in laboratory

conditions. the production costs for microbial electrolysis

are estimated at 1.7 to 2.6 US$/kgH 2 [2].

Transport and distribution infrastructure

Given different technologies, hydrogen production can be

placed either close to the energy source (central), e.g. an

onshore wind farm, or close to the consumer (decentralised),

which is an interesting option for many industrial

applications. With the decentralised solution, the transport

and storage of hydrogen does not require major

infrastructure, provided there is connection to electricity.

With the centralised solution, hydrogen has to be transported,

which is currently done using special pipelines or

by truck – but for an often mentioned ‘hydrogen economy’,

considerable infrastructure has to be built or upgraded.

The well-developed natural gas network in Europe – when

retrofitted – can also be used to transport hydrogen. As

with the natural gas system, compressor stations are

needed to generate high pressure in the transport system

(thus increasing the energy density), and of course

pipelines for the transmission and distribution network. If

liquid hydrogen is used, an infrastructure similar to that

for liquefied natural gas is needed. However, this leads to

higher energy costs and a lower level of energy efficiency.

As with natural gas, it is the distance that defines

whether pipeline transport or shipping is the most economical

solution. In a recently published study, “Hydrogen

generation in Europe: Overview of costs and key benefits”,

the authors consider the so-called “LCOT”, i.e. the levelised

cost of transmission as the discounted costs (CAPEX

and OPEX) to transport 1 MWh of H 2 . If an existing

natural gas infrastructure is upgraded, these costs are

3.70 €/MWh(H 2 ) for a transport over 600 km. For a new

hydrogen infrastructure, the costs are between 4.60 and

49.80 €/MWh(H 2 ) for a transport distance of 600 km [4].

For the distribution network, LCOD (levelised cost of

distribution) is calculated in a similar way, which is given

as 0.23 to 0.47 €/MWh(H 2 )/km, if existing natural gas

networks can be upgraded. New distribution networks

range from 0.05 €/MWh(H 2 )/km (1000 km transport

distance) to 1.61 €/MWh(H 2 )/km (1 km transport

distance). If hydrogen is distributed by truck, LCODs of

0.54 to 2.46 €/MWh(H 2 )/km are given. Thus, there are

significant cost implications [4].

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If hydrogen is heavily used by a number of sectors in the

same area of energy supply (heat, transport, electricity),

seasonal storage facilities will be needed. Additionally,

storage facilities are also needed for intraday balancing,

or storage for a few days for supply security. The LCOS

(levelised cost of storage) ranges between 6 and

104 €/MWh(H 2 ) [4].

Additional costs related to hydrogen infrastructure

can rise further for distribution of hydrogen to the end

customer, e.g. for filling stations. Here, the costs for

compressing hydrogen in particular is the main energy and

cost driver. Consequently, in order to use hydrogen on a

significant scale, an infrastructure for its transport and

distribution is necessary in addition to the production [4].

However, hydrogen transport also opens up the access

to global hydrogen production facilities through imports.

Here, hydrogen can be transported either as such or

converted into substances that are easier to transport and

then reconverted, as with ammonia (NH 3 ) or methanol

(CH 3 OH). Costs for importing hydrogen are usually given

in €/MWh(H 2 ).

To put these costs into perspective, we convert them

into electricity costs needed at the import location to

produce hydrogen by electrolysis. We assume that the

calorific value of hydrogen is between 33.33 kWh/kg and

39.41 kWh/kg and that electrolysis requires between

50 and 60 kWh of electricity to produce 1 kg of hydrogen.

Interestingly, the import of ammonia is significantly

cheaper. The electricity prices calculated from this can

then be compared with the LCOE (levelised cost of electricity),

which is available for a PV (photovoltaic) system

at the landing site. For example, according to World

Bank data, in 2018 in the Netherlands, PV had LCOE

of $12.41 ct/kWh(electricity) (equivalent to about

€10.41 ct/kWh (electricity), in Spain of $8.10 ct/kWh

(electricity) (equivalent to about €6.8 ct/kWh (electricity)

and in Germany of $11.19 ct/kWh (electricity) (equivalent

to about €9.39 ct/kWh (electricity).

The implicit electricity price compares the import costs

for hydrogen with the production costs for hydrogen with

an electrolyser in the importing country. According to the

study, ammonia can be imported from Chile at

€ 117/MWh (H 2 ) to Rotterdam. From this, an electricity

price can be calculated at which hydrogen can be produced

in Rotterdam at the import costs by electrolysis. Given the

two assumptions that 50 kWh of electricity are needed to

produce 1 kg of hydrogen and that hydrogen has a calorific

value of 33.33 kWh/kg, an implicit electricity price of

117 €/MWh(H 2 ) × 33.33 kWh/kg(H 2 )/50 kWh (electricity)/kg(H

2 ) is derived. This implicit electricity price

can then be compared with the LCOE for renewable

production at the Rotterdam site to determine whether

hydrogen production at the landfall site is competitive

| Figure 2

Comparison of the import costs with the production costs for hydrogen using electrolysis

in the importing country.

compared to import. Since the values for the amount of

electricity required vary with 50 to 60 kWh for electrolysis

and the calorific value of hydrogen varies between

33.33 kWh/kg to 39.41 kWh/kg, there is a band width in

the implicit electricity cost.

The table shows that both the Netherlands and Spain

already have economically attractive import options for

renewable hydrogen in the form of ammonia imports from

Chile. The transport costs are in the best case more than

compensated by the lower production costs. Spain, of

course, is different from Northwest-Europe, thanks to the

much better LCOE for PV.

In perspective, the costs will become lower – both for

the transport infrastructure and for hydrogen production.

The study published by the EU Commission [4] shows

import costs for 2050 that are significantly lower than the

import costs for 2020, assuming that hydrogen is imported

into Europe by pipeline from North Africa or Russia. The

share of transport costs is between 2 % and 10 % of the

total. Production of hydrogen in Europe therefore faces

intense competition if the production costs in Europe are

10 % higher than in the export regions.

Synthetic fuels

In addition to direct use, e.g. in fuel cells, hydrogen can

also be used for the production of synthetic fuels, which

has efficiency losses due to the additional application.

However, there can be advantages in transporting and/or

using the resulting synthetic fuel, which can also be used

as raw material in some instances. In the following, we

give a brief overview of possible energy carriers or raw

materials use [5, 6, 7, 8].


Import location: Costs

in €/MWh(H 2 )


hydrogen H 2


ammonia NH 3


hydrogen H 2


ammonia NH 3


hydrogen H 2


ammonia NH 3

Rotterdam 248 189 161 117 208 169

Rotterdam implicit electricity costs

in €/MWh (electricity)

13.78-19.55 10.50-14.90 8.94-12.69 6.50-9.22 11.55-16.39 9.39-13.32

Algeciras 240 186 158 116 200 167

Algeciras implicit electricity costs

in €/MWh (electricity)

13.33-18.92 10.33-14.66 8.78-12.45 6.44-12.45 11.11-15.76 9.28-13.16

| Table 1

Costs for imported hydrogen and implicit electricity costs at the point of import.

Note: The import costs for hydrogen [EU 2020b] are used to calculate the electricity costs that are just competitive for hydrogen production at the import location (Rotterdam or Algeciras):

if the actual market prices for electricity at the import location are higher than the calculated value, import is more economical. [4]

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For an evaluation of technologies, the starting point is

an assessment of energy and cost efficiency. In terms of

energy efficiency the drive unit is actually of less interest,

system efficiency is more decisive, i.e. “well-to-wheel”

from energy production to use in transport. However, cost

efficiency is also crucial: when comparing two technologies,

one may be more cost-efficient and the other

more energy-efficient. In this case, the economic decision

would – rightly – fall on the more cost-effective option.

This plays an important role especially in renewable

electricity generation with zero marginal costs for

electricity production.

Hydrogen: Apart from production, the decentralised

use of hydrogen does not require any storage, transport or

further downstream operations, which makes the process

appear simpler, in terms of efficiency – in contrast to

central solutions which benefit from more attractive

production costs. When used in a vehicle’s drivetrain, the

fuel cell has a lower efficiency than an electric motor. It is

also necessary to upgrade the gas grid for hydrogen

transport or use on-sites electrolysis or liquid organic

hydrogen carriers (LOHC). Anyway, hydrogen can be

imported – the challenges of expanding renewable

generation and developing the electricity grid are thus

significantly mitigated and may appear in some cases as

the only way forward.

| Figure 3

Production costs of synthetic fuels. [6]

Source: Kramer, U. et al. (2018): Defossilierung des Transportsektors – Optionen und Voraus setzungen

in Deutschland, page 87

| Figure 4

Electricity consumption for the production of synthetic fuels. [5]

Note: FVV = Forschungsvereinigung Verbrennungskraftmaschinen

Source: FfE Forschungsstelle für Energiewirtschaft (2019):

Welche strombasierten Kraftstoffe sind im zukünftigen Energiesystem relevant?

Methane: Methane is the main component of natural

gas, which also contains other gases in small quantities.

Methane can be used directly for electricity generation, but

also as a component, e.g. in the production of fertilisers or

even plastics. Furthermore, it can also be used as an energy

carrier in the transport or heavy-duty fuel in the heating

sector. Methane can be produced using climate­ neutral

electricity, and also as bio-methane. Methane can be easily

fed into a well-developed natural gas transport network

regardless of its origin or converted into LNG for transport.

The disadvantage, however, is that a further production

step is necessary to extract methane from the climateneutral

hydrogen which leads to significant energy losses.

Liquid fuels: Liquid fuels play an important role,

especially in transport applications. Methanol, Fischer­

Tropsch hydrocarbons, oxymethylene ether (OME),

dimethyl ether (DME) and other can be produced with

climate-neutral hydrogen. Similar to methane, proven processes

can be used to transport these energy carriers. However,

again conversion into liquid fuels results in higher

energy consumption.

The production of sufficient quantities of hydrogen

using renewable energies requires a significant expansion

of renewables electricity generation and transport to meet

the needs of energy supply (incl. sector coupling) and

industry. If this is not possible in a country or region, e.g.

due to a lack of economic viability or social acceptance, the

option of importing hydrogen or methanol or DME remains

more attractive, both in terms of energies and economics.

The imported energy carrier can then be used in industry

or energy conversion.

On the way to a global market

In the case of hydrogen, there is great interest in pro duction

close to consumption. However, for various reasons, the

necessary preconditions are not in place everywhere. In

such cases, local demand cannot be met with local production

alone for a number of reasons including high

production costs, lack of space or restrictions on the

necessary infrastructure development. For this reason,

large industrialised countries now regard the import of

hydrogen as an essential supplementary source, e.g. Japan

in cooperation with Australia. In Japan, it seems impossible

to meet the expected demand for hydrogen solely by

domestic production in its own country, hence hydrogen

import is an integral part of climate policy strategy.

In a recent study by the World Energy Council, three

main classes of criteria were identified for the import of

hydrogen and hydrogen-based products [9]:

p Criterion 1: The cost of generating renewable

electricity as the main factor for PtX (Power-to-X, i.e.

conversion of electricity in other energy carriers or raw

materials) production, mainly depending on the full

load hours of the installed capacities. Likewise, the

possibility of interplay between different types of

generation, e.g. combination of wind and solar, plays a

significant role, so does access to low-cost storage, as all

this allows the electrolysers to operate around the


p Criterion 2: Additional area-specific resource potentials

or constraints such as for example, land requirement

or availability of water. The availability of water

can be improved through desalination solutions, if

necessary. Likewise, access to CO 2 as a raw material for

PtX production is a crucial factor, so is the transport

infrastructure to remove the climate-neutral energy


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| Figure 5

Hydrogen production costs based on natural gas in selected world regions in 2018.

Typical production costs for hydrogen from solar and wind power. There are considerable

differences in production costs, suggesting the import of hydrogen as a cost-effective

option for many northern European countries [10]. Source: International Energy Agency

(2019): The Future of Hydrogen

p Criterion 3 (“soft factors”): Other factors beyond

natural resources include the political stability of a

country or, for example, its development status and the

embedded energy framework. As with all other

economic activities, legal certainty plays an important


The evaluation of these criteria led to a classification of

relevant production countries for hydrogen as possible

exporters to Europe and Germany in particular. The

decisive factor here is a large number of countries, which

avoids heavy dependence on a few countries – on the

contrary, the diversity of players means that intensive

competition can be expected, which ensures that

consumers can expect fair wholesale prices.

Looking at the current cost levels, fossil energy sources

have a competitive advantage over renewable energy as a

starting point for hydrogen production, including CCUS.

Hydrogen can often be produced more cheaply outside

Europe for two reasons that are closely related: the plant

load factor is higher in other areas, i.e. generating plants

run for considerably more hours in which they produce

electricity. This means that the electrolyser can also be

utilised much better. From an economic point of view, an

electrolyser works best if it is in operation every hour of the

year, because then the fixed costs are spread over more

hours. In this respect, cases where electrolysers are in

operation for a few hours only in order to absorb any

surplus electricity become a major economic handicap.

Possible export countries for hydrogen have different

prerequisites and preferences. This means that globally

intense competition can be expected. The well-known

transport solutions are available for hydrogen logistics.

Existing natural gas pipelines can only be used to a limited

extent, as hydrogen is particularly challenging in terms of

material embrittlement. For some time now, the gas

network operators have been carrying out projects – both

on the long-distance network level and on the distribution

network level – to upgrade the gas transport systems for

higher hydrogen admixture. An important point here,

however, is the extent to which the connected customers

can cope with a higher hydrogen content. In order to

transport the same amount of energy as in natural gas,

three times more hydrogen is required, since natural

gas and hydrogen have different product and energy


| Figure 6

Future hydrogen production costs from a combination of solar PV and onshore wind

systems [10].

* The costs reported by the IEA in 2019 relate to the year 2050. According to the IEA‘s

updated assessment (from the year 2021), the costs indicated could, however, be reached

significantly earlier than 2050. Source: IEA (2019)

| Figure 7

Types of potential PtX producers/exporters and selected sample countries [9].

Note: The PtX types and the allocation of a possible candidate country within each category serve as

starting point to identify possible PtX development strategies; not a concise list and readily alterable.

Source: Frontier Economics (2018): International aspects of a Power-to-X Roadmap

Just like LNG in the natural gas sector, liquefied

hydrogen LH 2 can also be used to transport energy

quantities. To do this, hydrogen must be cooled to a

temperature of around -253 °C, i.e. significantly lower

temperatures than LNG at around -162 °C. The first ship

transport of LH 2 between Japan and Australia is planned

for autumn 2021.

In addition, synthetic energy carriers based on

hydrogen can play an important role, as synthetic methane

can be transported to the end consumer using the existing

gas transport infrastructure or synthetic liquid fuels

with the existing transport infrastructure (e.g. tankers).

In its analysis for the German member committee of the

World Energy Council, Frontier Economics concludes


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that synthetic petrol from Iceland or North Africa/Middle

East will be competitive from around 2050. Due to changes

in the tax and levy system, these forecasts can shift in

time – both forwards and backwards. What is clear, however,

is that imports are significantly cheaper, especially

since synthetic petrol or methane can rely on transport

systems that are already established, such as pipelines or

oil tankers [9].

Use of hydrogen

In principle, the use of hydrogen can be considered in all

energy consumption sectors. However, focal points for its

priority use are emerging within the various sectors. In

addition, there are different priorities for use in the

national economies around the world.

In industry, hydrogen can be considered as a feedstock

for a variety of processes and procedures. Hydrogen is

already being used in large quantities for the production of

ammonia, methanol and high-quality chemicals. There is a

significant number of other applications in the chemical

and petrochemical industries as well as in the production

of cement. In addition, the steel industry is seen as a

significant user of “green” hydrogen in the future. The direct

reduction of iron ore by hydrogen is seen as the only

viable way to replace the coal-based blast furnace process.

In the transport sector, hydrogen can be used in fuel

cells of electric vehicles. This applies to cars, buses, trucks,

trains and for transport operations in industry, such as

forklifts or lift trucks. In the fuel cell, hydrogen is converted

into electrical energy and the vehicle is driven by an

electric motor. Synthetic fuels can be produced from

hydrogen with the addition of carbon, which – as applications

mentioned above – can also be used in aviation and

shipping. The CO 2 needed for the process can be extracted

from the atmosphere. Alternatively, carbon produced

during the capture of CO 2 in coal, gas or biomass

power plants or from non-avoidable industrial sources

(waste, sewage sludge, waste incineration, cement plants,

chemical industry) can be used. In January 2021, the first

commercial passenger flight in the world was operated

Colour theory

with “sustainably produced synthetic paraffin”. For the

KLM flight from Amsterdam to Madrid, 500 litres of

synthetic paraffin were blended, which Shell produced at

its research centre in Amsterdam.

In the buildings sector, hydrogen can be used to

generate electricity and heat 1

using fuel cells, off-grid

power and heat (micro-CHP or CHP). The strongest

hydrogen application in the buildings is located in Japan.

There, more than 300,000 buildings are equipped with

fuel cell heating systems.

Electricity generation is another area of application.

Hydrogen can be converted back into electrical energy by

special gas turbines (currently with hydrogen as an

admixture) or stationary fuel cells. Typically, this is done

by converting renewables generated “surplus” electricity

into hydrogen, which serves as a storage medium and can

be used to generate electricity on demand.

Transport and industry are the most widely pursued

application sectors for hydrogen, the latter especially

in countries that have a strong industrial base and give

high priority to greenhouse gas emission reduction, as

is the case in Germany. All countries that pursue a

hydrogen strategy see transport as an important application

area for this product. The only difference is in the

emphasis placed on different modes of transport. In Asian

countries in particular, Japan, South Korea and China, as

well as in California, fuel cell propulsion is also used for

passenger cars. In Europe, on the other hand, the focus is

on buses, trucks, trains, ships and air travel. There, the

future for passenger cars is seen in battery-powered

electric drives. Differences in orientation can also be seen

in the buildings sector. In Japan and South Korea, the

focus is on CHP using fuel cells. In contrast, in Europe the

approach aims to achieve the targeted greenhouse

gas emission reduction through improved insulation of

the buildings, phasing out oil for heating and transition to

electric heat pumps. The re-electrification of hydrogen

is mainly seen as a balancing mechanism for the

fluctuating power generation from wind and sun – this

mainly in Europe and in Australia.

Hydrogen is colourless. In order to classify the numerous possible production processes according

to their respective climate compatibility, hydrogen is categorised by assigning different colours.

Green: Production of hydrogen by electrolysis of water, i.e. the splitting of the water molecule into the

two elements oxygen and hydrogen. Only electricity from renewable energies is used in this process.

Grey: Hydrogen is produced by steam reforming of fossil fuels such as coal or natural gas. In the

process, CO 2 is released depending on the CO 2 intensity of the energy source used. The production of

one tonne of hydrogen from natural gas produces around 10 tonnes of CO 2 .

Blue: Natural gas is split into hydrogen and CO 2 . However, the carbon dioxide is captured and either

put to use or stored underground.

Turquoise: The hydrogen is produced via the thermal splitting of methane ( methane pyrolysis). This

produces solid carbon that can be reused as a raw material. The prerequisites for the CO 2 neutrality

of the process are the heat supply of the high-temperature reactor from CO 2 -free energies and the

permanent binding of the carbon.

Red: Red hydrogen is produced climate-neutrally with electricity from nuclear power plants.

White: There are very rare regions where natural deposits of hydrogen can be extracted.

1 A significant proportion of households are not connected to the natural gas pipeline network, but use liquid gas, for example. In the foreseeable future,

only liquid energy sources (and not hydrogen directly) will be usable here.

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Strategies and projects worldwide

The study “International Hydrogen Strategies” commissioned

by the World Energy Council – Germany and

presented by Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik GmbH in

September 2020 states that 20 countries worldwide,

representing 44 % of global gross domestic product (GDP),

have a national hydrogen strategy [11]. 31 countries,

representing another 44 % of global GDP, support national

projects and are considering policies in favour of hydrogenbased

technologies. The activities are broadly spread

around the world. The strongest trends are seen in Europe,

in the Asia/Pacific region, especially in Japan, South

Korea, China and Australia, in North and parts of South

America as well as in the Middle East and North Africa, the

so-called MENA regions. The most important drivers are:

achieving ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction

targets, integrating renewable energies and exploiting

opportunities for economic growth.

The national strategies differ in their concrete

orientation, which is determined by the respective

country-specific interests. What they have in common,

however, is the perception that hydrogen is an essential

and indispensable component of a decarbonised energy

system. For 2050, the aforementioned study expects

a global demand potential for hydrogen of up to

9,000 terawatt hours (TWh), corresponding to 270 million

tonnes per year, which is as large as the annual primary

energy consumption currently covered by renewable

energies worldwide.

The majority of long-term national strategies target

“green” hydrogen from renewable energies. However, on

the way to a decarbonised world by 2050, other types of

“low carbon” hydrogen are also being targeted. This is seen

as an effective and pragmatic way to kick-start a hydrogen

economy and achieve volume increases [12].

The hydrogen strategies of the various countries differ

in their orientation. On the one hand, the market sectors

for which hydrogen use is a priority. This also applies to the

role that hydrogen is to play in the future, either as an

import or export commodity.

Japan, South Korea and Germany in particular see

imports of hydrogen as an essential part of their respective

national strategies. In Australia, Spain, Norway, Russia,

Morocco, the United Kingdom, but also in the Middle East,

the development of export markets plays an important

role in strategy considerations. Some of the countries,

especially in the Middle East, are interested in replacing

fossil energy exports with hydrogen exports. The most

prominent cooperation at present is the “Hydrogen Energy

Supply Chain Pilot” between Australia and Japan. In this

project, hydrogen is produced in a process with integrated

lignite gasification in Australia, liquefied there and transported

to Japan by ship. Commercialisation of this supply

chain on a large scale is planned by 2030. Saudi Arabia

plans to start exporting hydrogen produced from

renew able energy in 2025, and further export/import

relationships are being discussed between MENA countries

as suppliers and Japan, South Korea and Europe as

recipients. In addition, future international hydrogen

markets could be served from South America.

In principle, an expansion of the hydrogen economy

can meet basic goals of energy and climate policy.

p Insofar as hydrogen is produced on the basis of

renewable energies or when fossil energies are used

with carbon capture and storage (CCS), greenhouse gas

emissions can be reduced, especially in sectors that are

difficult to electrify (such as long-distance freight

| Figure 8

Number of hydrogen projects by world region [13].

Source: McKinsey & Company (2021): Hydrogen Insights

| Figure 9

Allocation of worldwide hydrogen projects by type of alignment [13].

Source: McKinsey & Company (2021): Hydrogen Insights

transport or steel production) or where fossil raw

materials can be replaced (for example in the chemical

industry). In some applications, local air pollution can

also be avoided. This goal is part of the strategies of

Australia, China, South Korea and California. Furthermore,

hydrogen tech nology enables the storage of

energy; “green” hydrogen can be used as load balancing

for the intermittent generation of electricity from wind

and sun, facilitating its integration into the energy


p Hydrogen as a universal energy carrier is suitable for

diversifying the energy mix by reducing dependence on

fossil energies. This applies to countries that rely on the

import of hydrogen. However, the expansion of

hydrogen production at particularly suitable locations

can also help to expand the export portfolio.

p Domestic hydrogen production and technology

development can promote economic growth and

strengthen economic power through technology

leadership. Furthermore, additional income streams

can be generated through the export of hydrogen and

technologies along the value chain.


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To achieve these goals, there are several stages to go


p The period up to around 2030 can serve to activate the

market through technology development and to take

the first steps towards building up demand for


p In the second phase up to around 2040, constant market

growth is seen with the development of hydrogen

technologies on a large scale (e.g. in Germany, development

of up to 10 GW electrolysis capacity between 2035

and 2040) as well as commercialisation of hydrogen

use in a range of applications.

p In the third phase, by 2050, hydrogen technologies will

be ready for the market as an important building block

for the targeted greenhouse gas neutrality.

Strategies of selected countries

The publication of the World Energy Council – Germany

mentioned above describes the hydrogen strategies of the

governments of 16 countries (United Kingdom, Japan,

South Korea, Australia, Netherlands, France, Italy,

Spain, China, Ukraine, Germany, Switzerland, Morocco,

California as the most advanced country in terms of

hydrogen within the USA, Russia and Norway) and the

European Union. The following is an exemplary outline

of two countries whose strategy is geared in particular to

the future export of hydrogen and two countries that

intend to pursue their energy and climate policy goals

primarily by importing hydrogen. These are Australia and

Saudi Arabia on the one hand, and Japan and Germany

on the other. In addition, the hydrogen strategy of the

European Union is outlined and suitable starting points

for the establishment of a hydrogen infrastructure are


Australia aims to become a major supplier of renewable

and low-carbon hydrogen to the global market,

including associated technologies, by 2050. This is linked

to an expansion of the use of hydrogen at home and

primarily directed at the use of hydrogen in long-distance

transport by trucks, buses, trains and ships. This also

includes, among other things, synthetic fuels as an option

for air transport. Furthermore, possible uses in industry

and the feeding of hydrogen into gas pipelines, for example

for heating and cooking in buildings, are part of the

considerations. And finally, power generation is also

considered an interesting sector. Hydrogen can be used

there through re-electrification in fuel cells and gas


The national strategy includes a wide range of

different measures to support hydrogen technology.

They range from financial support of around €400 million

for projects, technologies and applications, to regulatory

measures facilitating the development of a

hydrogen industry in Australia. Already, more than

30 hydrogen projects are being pursued or developed.

These include:

p Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC) to demonstrate

the supply chain from hydrogen production from lignite

in Latrobe Valle in Victoria and transport by LH 2 ship to

Japan. The commercial phase of this project, involving

a number of Australian and Japanese companies, is

planned for 2030. Included is the implementation of

CCS technology to ensure “low carbon” production of

the hydrogen.

p Various power-to-gas projects, mainly based on wind

and solar power, with the aim of feeding the product

thus obtained into the local gas pipeline network.

p Establishment of a hydrogen centre in Alton,

Victoria, by Toyota – including electrolysis and

demonstration of the use of “green” hydrogen in the

transport sector.

p Demonstration project for hydrogen in the transport

sector including a fuel cell electric vehicle fleet in


A further illustration of the Australian ambitions is the

Australian-German project HySupply that started at the

end of 2020. Australian and German experts from industry

and science will investigate for a period of two years the

green hydrogen value chain between two industrialized

nations. Barriers to the creation of a global hydrogen

economy will be identified in order to pave the way towards

the development of a global hydrogen market.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest exporter of crude oil,

is striving to play a market-leading role in the supply of

hydrogen and to diversify its export portfolio in this way.

The country’s large reserves of natural gas enable it to

produce “blue” hydrogen. This is done by capturing CO 2 in

the natural gas-based hydrogen production process. In

September 2020, the world’s first shipload of 40 tonnes of

“blue” hydrogen converted into ammonia was shipped to

Japan, according to ARAMCO.

The Kingdom also plans to produce “green” hydrogen

based on solar energy. In a joint venture of the

Saudi NEOM JV and ACWA Power with Air Products, five

billion US dollars are to be invested in hydrogen production

capacities in NEOM, a futuristic city on the Red

Sea. The project will have an ammonia plant with an

annual capacity of 1.2 million tonnes, using hydrogen

produced on the basis of solar and wind including storage

with a capacity of more than 4 GW. The commissioning

of the production facilities is planned for 2025. The hydrogen

is to be used as a feedstock for the production of

fertilisers, chemicals and oil derivatives. With corresponding

investments, Saudi Arabia hopes to maintain its

role as a major energy supplier for the world in the future,

since more and more countries are reducing their use of

fossil fuels.

Japan is one of the world’s leading hydrogen states.

The development of hydrogen technologies has been

supported by the state since the 1970s. The background to

this is the country’s low availability of domestic energy

resources, combined with a high dependence on energy

imports, and the commitments it has made to reduce

greenhouse gas emissions. Japan is striving for global

technological leadership in hydrogen and in this way also

wants to improve its industrial competitiveness.

The transport sector is seen as a focal point for the

increased use of hydrogen in the future. Here, the use of

hydrogen is to be directed towards fuel cell cars with

electric motors as well as fuel cell buses, trucks, forklifts,

trains and ships. Furthermore, the expansion of hydrogen

use in power generation, in the buildings sector and in

industry is envisaged.

Japan aims to be the first country to import large

quantities of hydrogen by sea using newly developed

hydrogen ships. By 2030, the annual import of hydrogen is

set to reach 300,000 tonnes. Until then, the imported

hydrogen will be produced mainly on the basis of fossil

energies, after 2025 it will be produced with low CO 2

emissions using CCS technology. For the period from

2030, the aim is to supplement the fossil (+ CCS)

generated import volumes with hydrogen produced as

cost­ effectively as possible on the basis of renewable


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Germany already has a comparatively large hydrogen

market with an estimated demand of about 55 TWhH 2 per

year corresponding to 1.65 million tonnes in 2019. The

most important consumers are the chemical industry

( ammonia and methanol) and refineries [14]. Most of the

production is based on fossil energies. There are over

30 power-to-gas plants with a total installed capacity of

29 MW.

The German government presented the National

Hydrogen Strategy in June 2020 [15]. In the period from

2020 to 2023, technologies in industry that use hydrogen

to decarbonise manufacturing processes will be funded

with over €1 billion. In addition, €7 billion will be made

available for the market ramp-up of hydrogen technologies

in Germany and another €2 billion for international

partnerships. The National Hydrogen Strategy also aims to

strengthen the competitiveness of German companies and

thus exploit the economic opportunities associated with

this technology. The EU and many other EU states have

also launched such strategies.

The development of a hydrogen economy – especially a

“green” one – cannot be realised without state support.

This is because hydrogen technologies are more expensive

than conventional production processes. The German

government as well as the EU want to alleviate the

resulting burdens by introducing so-called contracts for


The goal of the European hydrogen strategy is to

provide a total of 40 GW of electrolyser capacity for the

production of “green” hydrogen by 2030. Favourable

conditions for the development of a hydrogen infrastructure

are given if two prerequisites in particular are

met. These include a large demand potential and costeffective

access to renewable energies [16].

In a study for Europe, Agora Energiewende and

Afry Management Consulting identified four regions in

particular that have especially good conditions [17]. One

of these corridors runs in a broad strip parallel to the North

Sea and Channel coast between Lower Saxony and the

north-east of France, including the Netherlands and

Belgium. Several large hydrogen projects are already

planned in this region. For example, BP, Evonik, Nowega,

OGE and RWE Generation want to build Germany’s

first publicly accessible hydrogen network between

Gelsenkirchen and Lingen by the end of 2022. The core

elements are the construction of an electrolysis plant with

a capacity of 100 MW that converts renewable electricity

into “green” hydrogen, the transport of the pure hydrogen

in existing converted natural gas pipelines and its use in

refineries and later in other sectors. This project is

embedded in the “GET H2” initiative, in which BASF,

Stadtwerke Lingen, Hydrogenious Technologies and

research institutions such as the Jülich Research Centre

are involved in addition to the companies already

mentioned. Uniper and the Port of Rotterdam Authority

are sounding out possibilities for the production of “green”

hydrogen in Maasvlakte, a large industrial and port area

near Rotterdam. RWE Generation is planning to build an

electrolysis plant in Eemshaven to produce hydrogen with

an initial capacity of 50 MW, connected to the Westereems

onshore wind farm.

Agora Energiewende and Afry name Spain as the

second priority location. There are already concrete plans

there as well. An international consortium wants to install

a 100 MW electrolyser in the Valencia region to produce

hydrogen for the local ceramics industry. The experts see a

third corridor in the north and east of Poland. The fourth

region mentioned is a corridor between Romania, eastern

Bulgaria and northern Greece.

Scenarios on the prospects for hydrogen

A number of institutions regularly publish analyses of the

future development of global energy supply. These include

the International Energy Agency and the World Energy

Council, energy companies such as BP and Equinor, and

consulting and service companies such as McKinsey, DVN

and Bloomberg. These insights into the future of energy

supply and demand have different orientations. A

distinction can be made between exploratory scenarios,

projections and normative scenarios. The modelled results

differ against the background of the approaches chosen

and the assumptions made.

However, the consensus from these studies is that

hydrogen is seen as an essential building block for a

successful transformation of the energy supply. The

greater the climate protection ambitions, the stronger the

role attributed to hydrogen.

According to Kearney, global consumption of hydrogen

could reach around 539 million tonnes in 2050 – up

from 70 million tonnes in 2019 [2]. According to this

consultancy, the increase of 469 million tonnes is

distributed by sector as follows in 2050:

p Transport:

154 million tonnes

p Energy use by industry: 112 million tonnes

p Buildings:

77 million tonnes

p Industrial raw material: 63 million tonnes

p Power generation and storage: 63 million tonnes

The Norwegian consulting and certification company DNV

has presented a projection which, based on model

calculations, shows how the world’s energy supply is

expected to develop by 2050 [18]. For hydrogen, a global

consumption of 24 EJ corresponding to 573 Mtoe in 2050

is anticipated. The level of demand for hydrogen is

identified as strongly dependent on the CO 2 price. The

projection is based on the fact that the CO 2 price develops

differently across world regions. For example, a CO 2 price

of 80 US$/t is assumed for Europe and 60 US$/t for China

in 2050, but significantly lower price assumptions are

made for the other world regions. Global consumption of

hydrogen would be about twice as high in 2050 if a 400 %

higher CO 2 price were assumed than in the DNV projection,

the company says.

The most recent study available is the Global Energy

Perspective 2021, which McKinsey published in January

2021 [19]. McKinsey examined three future paths, defined

as the Reference Case, Accelerated Transition Scenario and

1.5 °C Pathway. In the Reference Case, global hydrogen

demand triples from 2019 to 2050 at an average annual rate

of 3.5 % to about 200 million tonnes. The initial growth

driver is the chemical industry and, in the longer term,

transport. “Green” hydrogen starts to replace “grey” hydrogen

after 2030 and becomes competitive before 2040. In

2050, 80 % of hydrogen will be produced by electrolysis.

This development is favoured by a strong reduction of the

investment costs of electrolysers and the electricity generation

costs based on renewable energies. In 2050, about

80 % of hydrogen will be produced by electrolysis. In the

Accelerated Transition scenario, it is assumed that “blue”

hydrogen achieves cost parity with “grey” hydrogen already

in the early 2020s and replaces about one tenth of “grey”

hydrogen in existing applications by 2030. Electrolysis

capacities increase to 150 GW by 2030. Global demand

growth is progressing at annual rates of 6 %. The transport

sector contributes three quarters of this increase. The result


Serial | Major Trends in Energy Policy and Nuclear Power

Hydrogen – Important Building Block Towards Climate Neutrality ı Hans-Wilhelm Schiffer and Stefan Ulreich

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July


is a hydrogen demand of about 400 million tonnes in 2050.

In the 1.5 °C pathway, strong restrictions are assumed at the

expense of CO 2 ­ intensive energies, above all in industry and

transport, as well as strong political support in favour of

hydrogen – with the consequence that the global demand

for hydrogen increases to about 600 million tonnes by 2050.

The International Energy Agency – like McKinsey – has

modelled various scenarios [20]. These include in

particular the Stated Policy Scenario (STEPS), the

Sustainable Develop ment Scenario (SDS) and the Net Zero

Emissions by 2050 Case (NZE2050). STEPS is based on

existing and currently announced policy frameworks and

targets, as far as they are underpinned by concrete

measures. In contrast, the “target scenario” SDS assumes

that the goals of a sustainable energy supply are

comprehensively achieved – including the goals of the Paris

Climate Agreement. With NZE2050, the SDS analysis is

expanded and it is assumed that climate neutrality

will be achieved worldwide by 2070. Accordingly, there

is a wide range of expectations, in terms of future

production of hydrogen between these scenarios. For

example, the following production volumes for hydrogen

are assumed globally in 2030: 0.4 million tonnes of oil

equivalent (Mtoe) in STEPS, 40 Mtoe in SDS (including

10 Mtoe in the EU) and 120 Mtoe in NZE2050. The amount

of electricity required to produce the 0.4 Mtoe in STEPS is

reported to be less than 10 TWh – compared to nearly

400 TWh in SDS. The elec tricity demand for hydrogen

produced by electrolysis within the EU is estimated at

5 TWh in STEPS and 200 TWh in SDS in 2030. In 2040,

global production of hydrogen remains limited to only

10 Mtoe in the STEPS scenario.

In its scenarios, Equinor shows, among other things,

what contribution hydrogen could make to achieving

the climate neutrality targeted by the EU by 2050 [21].

In the Reform scenario modelled by Equinor, the EU’s

energy- related CO 2 emissions are reduced by 72 % by

2050 compared to 1990. In this scenario, hydrogen is

not yet assigned a growing role. However, if – in deviation

from this result – hydrogen were to be favoured by

appropriate policy frameworks, energy-related CO 2

emissions could be reduced by 82 % by 2050 compared to

1990 and thus by 10 per centage points more than without

the additional introduction of hydrogen into the energy

mix. The contribution of hydrogen to the EU’s final energy

consumption would in this case reach 15 % in 2050, with

different shares in different sectors, ranging from 0 to

30 %. In transport, hydrogen could replace oil in particular,

and gas in stationary installations. With regard to the

production of hydrogen, it would be expected that from

today’s 100 % “grey” hydrogen (based on gas without

CCS), a ratio of 60 % “green” hydrogen and 40 % “blue”

hydrogen (gas with CCS) would be established by 2050,

with 90 % of the CO 2 being captured and stored by the

blue share. In this case, electricity generation from

wind and sun would have to be 55 % higher in 2050

than expected in the Reform scenario.

BP and BloombergNEF also presented studies on

the longer-term prospects for global energy supply in

autumn 2020. As in the aforementioned studies, various

scenarios are modelled – including a normative scenario

that assumes climate neutrality by the middle of the century

and shows what needs to happen to meet this goal. BP’s Net

Zero Scenario concludes that hydrogen consumption must

increase to 60 EJ (equivalent to 1,433 Mtoe) by 2050 and

thus to about 15 % of global final energy consumption.

According to the results of BP’s calculations, half of the

production will then be divided between “green” and “blue”

hydrogen. Of the total hydrogen consumption in this BP

scenario in 2050, a good two-fifths are accounted for by

industry, just under a quarter by transport and a sixth each

by the buildings and electricity sectors [22]. For its NEO

Climate Scenario for 2050, BloombergNEF shows a global

consumption of hydrogen of 801 million tonnes. According

to BloombergNEF, an additional 36,000 TWh of electricity

will be needed to produce this amount of hydrogen in 2050.

This is about one third more than the electricity consumed

worldwide in 2019. Including the additional electricity

needed to realise a pathway that relies on clean electricity

and hydrogen, global electricity generation in 2050 is

expected to be around 100,000 TWh in this scenario [23].

The World Energy Council had already initiated

Hydrogen Global in 2019 as a platform with the aim of

promoting the development of clean hydrogen and

hydrogen-based fuels [24]. The platform serves to give

visibility to the commitments of governments, companies

and organisations to the development of hydrogen. For the

World Energy Congress 2022, which will take place in

St. Petersburg in autumn 2022, the World Energy Council

will present a new edition of its Global Energy Scenarios

study, which was last published in 2019. The model

calculations prepared for this study will also quantify the

future role of hydrogen for various scenarios – both

globally and differentiated by world region. The global

platform will be complemented by the work of the national

committees of the World Energy Council. The World

Energy Council Germany, in cooperation with Ludwig-

Bölkow Systemtechnik, has prepared a study detailing the

hydrogen strategies that have been launched worldwide.

One of the results is that the global demand for hydrogen

for the year 2050 is estimated at about 9,000 TWh or

270 million tonnes per year. This is about half of the

primary energy consumed by the EU per year. According to

the findings of this study, €40 billion is expected to be

invested in production capacities for “green” hydrogen in

the EU alone by 2030.


The recent studies on the prospects for global energy

supply have one thing in common: The goal of climate

neutrality, which many countries have set themselves from

the middle of this century, can only be achieved if the

roll-out of a broad-based use of hydrogen is seen as a

central element of decarbonisation. While hydrogen did

experience a hype driven by technical possibilities at the

turn of the millennium that ended in disillusionment, this

time an emerging market is apparent. Not only the climate

targets set in the various countries, but also the growing

efforts of many companies to manufacture and transport

their products in a climate-neutral way, suggest that

after a subsidy-induced start, a self-supporting market for

climate-neutral, especially green hydrogen will emerge

towards the end of this decade [25]. Moreover, this also

opens up opportunities for countries such as those in the

Middle East to transform themselves from exporters of oil

and natural gas to exporters of renewables produced

energy carriers.

The actual implementation of the possible scenarios for

the use of hydrogen depends crucially on political and

regulatory conditions. An interesting possibility to use

more hydrogen in a future energy system at reasonable

costs would be to use existing infrastructure in the future –

both for transport and for use by end customers, e.g. in

heating or mobility solutions.

Serial | Major Trends in Energy Policy and Nuclear Power

Hydrogen – Important Building Block Towards Climate Neutrality ı Hans-Wilhelm Schiffer and Stefan Ulreich

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July


[1] International Energy Agency (2019): The Future of Hydrogen – Seizing today’s opportunities

[2] Kearney Energy Transition Institute (2020): Hydrogen applications and business models

[3] International Energy Agency (2020): Energy Technology Perspectives 2020

[4] European Commission (2020): Hydrogen generation in Europe: Overview of costs

and key benefits

[5] FfE (2019), Welche strombasierten Kraftstoffe sind im zukünftigen Energiesystem relevant?

(veröffentlicht 6.2.2019)

[6] FVV, Dr. Ulrich Kramer et al. Defossilisierung des Transportsektors (2018)

[7] Prognos AG, Fraunhofer-Institut für Umwelt-, Sicherheits- und Energietechnik UMSICHT

und Deutsches Biomasseforschungszentrum DBFZ (2018): Status und Perspektiven flüssiger

Energieträger in der Energiewende, MWV

[8] ProcessNet Positionspapier „Fortschrittliche alternative flüssige Brenn- und Kraftstoffe:

Für Klimaschutz im globalen Rohstoffwandel“ des temporären ProcessNet-Arbeitskreises

„ Alternative Brenn- und Kraftstoffe“. http://dechema.de/Alternative_Brenn_und_Kraftstoffe

[9] Frontier Economics (2018): International aspects of a Power-to-X roadmap,A report prepared for

the World Energy Council Germany

[10] IEA (2019), The Future of Hydrogen (Technology Report)

[11] Weltenergierat – Deutschland and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (2020): International hydrogen


[12] Rolle, C. and Kusch, M. (2021): Wasserstoff als Treiber internationaler Zusammenarbeit?

Vergleich internationaler Wasserstoffstrategien, in: Energiewirtschaftliche Tagesfragen 71. Jg.

(2021) Heft 1/2

[13] Hydrogen Council, Mc Kinsey & Company (2021): Hydrogen Insights – A perspective on hydrogen

investment, market development and cost competitiveness

[14] Institute of Energy Economics (EWI) and The Oxford Institute for Energy Studies (2021):

Contrasting European hydrogen pathways: An analysis of differing approaches in key markets,

OIES Paper: NG 166

[15] Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie (2020): Die Nationale Wasserstoffstrategie

[16] European Commission (2020a): A hydrogen strategy for a climate-neutral Europe;

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European

Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, COM (2020) 301 final

[17] Agora Energiewende and AFRY Management Consulting (2021): No-regret hydrogen:

Charting early steps for H2 infrastructure in Europe

[18] DNV (2020): Energy Transition Outlook 2020

[19] McKinsey & Company (2021): Global Energy Perspective 2021

[20] International Energy Agency (2020): World Energy Outlook 2020

[21] Equinor (2020): Energy Perspectives 2020

[22] BP (2020): Energy Outlook 2020 edition

[23] BloombergNEF (2020): New Energy Outlook 2020

[24] World Energy Council (2019): New Hydrogen Economy – Hope or Hype?, Innovation Insights Brief

[25] Energieinformationsdienst 16/21, Wasserstoff hilft bei industrieller Dekarbonisierung,

(as of 16 th April 2021)






Save the Date


Dr Hans-Wilhelm Schiffer

Lecturer at RWTH Aachen University, Germany


Dr. Hans-Wilhelm Schiffer is member of the Studies Committee of the World Energy

Council, London and a visiting lecturer for Energy Economics at RWTH Aachen

University. Mr. Schiffer studied economics at the University of Cologne and at the

Pennsylvania State University. He started his career as scientific assistant at the

Institute for Energy Economics of the Cologne University. He then worked as a civil

servant in the Federal Economics Ministry, including a period with the British

Department of Energy, and the Federal Ministry for Environment in Bonn and

subsequently for the RWE Group in Essen. He is the author of the standard work

Energiemarkt Deutschland, published by Springer Vieweg in November 2018.

Prof Dr Stefan Ulreich

University of Applied Sciences, Biberach, Germany


Prof. Dr. Stefan Ulreich teaches energy economics at the University of Applied

Sciences Biberach with a focus on commodity trading, risk management, energy

policy and digitization. Stefan Ulreich studied theoretical physics at the Ludwig-

Maximilians-University in Munich. He started his career at Dresdner Kleinwort

Benson in investment banking. Then he worked for the E.ON Group as energy

trader and originator, in the energy policy and in the energy strategy department.

Stefan Ulreich chairs the Task Force Renewables of the European Federation of

Energy Traders (EFET) and is active in the World Energy Council.

Media partner



29 – 30 March 2022



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Serial | Major Trends in Energy Policy and Nuclear Power

Hydrogen – Important Building Block Towards Climate Neutrality ı Hans-Wilhelm Schiffer and Stefan Ulreich

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July



The Energy Charter Treaty

at a Crossroads – Uncertain Times

for Energy Investors

Max Stein

Introduction The Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) has been protecting investments in the energy sector for more than

25 years. It served as the basis for the highest arbitral award in history (Yukos v. Russia with an award of $50 billion in

damages), the arbitration known to a wider German public (Vattenfall v. Germany in relation to the nuclear power

phaseout) as well as to a whole series of arbitrations against Spain and, to a lesser extent, Italy, in relation to measures

in the solar industry. Around 140 arbitrations have been initiated on the basis of the ECT, making it the most important

international investment treaty in the world.

But these are difficult times to stand

out as an investment protection

instrument. In the last few years,

investor state dispute settlement

(“ISDS”) has attracted a lot of criticism,

not only from NGOs but also from

politicians. Almost six years ago, the

EU’s trade commissioner at the time,

Cecilia Malmström declared that

“ISDS is now the most toxic acronym

in Europe” and this statement still

holds true. One of the key criticisms of

ISDS is the assertion that it affects a

state’s right to regulate. Energy regulation

has always been a particularly

sensitive subject and – with the Paris

Agreement and the European Green

Deal – this sensitivity has only

increased. The recent cases brought

by RWE and Uniper against the

Netherlands over the country’s

planned coal phaseout hit exactly that


Critics have portrayed the ECT as

the epitome of evil in international

investment protection. 1 The EU – who

along with 26 of its Member States 2

and Euratom accounts for the majority

of its fifty-four Signatories and

Contracting Parties 3 – has stated that

the ECT’s “outdated provisions are no

longer sustainable or adequate for the

current challenges” 4 . It seeks to

modernise and turn it into a “green”

treaty reflecting climate change and

clean energy transition goals. 5 These

modernisation efforts are likely to be a

make-or-break situation. Should they

fail, the EU along with its Member

States may withdraw from the ECT.

This paper seeks to describe the

intricacies of the current situation and

illustrate what it means for energy

investors under each of the potential

outcomes – from reform to withdrawal

of the EU or even an agreement

by all ECT member states to

terminate the ECT.

From the origins as a

post Iron Curtain forum

to the most-used

investment treaty

Originally set up in the early 1990s to

create a post Iron Curtain forum

for East-West policy cooperation on

energy, investment protection, trade

and transit, the key provisions of

the ECT concern the protection of

investment, trade in energy materials

and products, transit, and dispute

settlement. The ECT was signed in

December 1994 and entered into legal

force in April 1998. 6 Its crucial objective

was and remains to strengthen

the rule of law on energy issues.

Investors did not discover the

ECT right away: Only 29 cases were

registered with the ECT Secretariat

in the ten years following the first proceeding

in 2001. But these 29 cases

were dwarfed in the subsequent ten

years when a total of 106 known cases

were filed 7 . All of these cases are

based on Article 26 of the ECT, which

allows investors to directly sue states

on the basis of a claim that their rights

under the ECT – e.g. the right to fair

and equitable treatment and the right

to compensation for expropriations –

have been violated.

Often viewed as an instrument to

protect fossil fuels, the ECT does

not differentiate between different

sources of energy. The majority of

cases litigated under the Treaty stem

from measures concerning the solar

and wind energy industry. Especially

Spain and Italy, but also Bulgaria and

the Czech Republic often found themselves

as respondents in these cases. 8

Of the 106 ECT cases registered with

the Secretariat in the past ten years

(2011-2020), 79 cases dealt with

renewable energy sources. 9 For

comparison, during the entire time

the Treaty has been in force, there

have been 43 cases concerning fossil

fuels and five cases concerning

nuclear energy. 10

The renewables cases led Italy to

withdraw from the ECT, whereas

1 See e.g. Powershift et al., Busting the myths around the Energy Charter Treaty, 2020 (https://power-shift.de/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/

Busting-the-myths-around-the-Energy-Charter-Treaty-small.pdf); Corporate Europe Observatory et al., Silent expansion – Will the world’s most dangerous investment

treaty take the global south hostage?, 2020 (https://corporateeurope.org/sites/default/files/2020-06/ECT%20Silent%20Expansion.pdf).

2 Italy notified the Secretariat of its withdrawal on 31/12/2014, which became effective on 01/01/2016 (Art. 47 (2) ECT) (https://www.energychartertreaty.org/treaty/


3 https://www.energychartertreaty.org/treaty/contracting-parties-and-signatories/.

4 European Commission, Recommendation for a Council decision authorising the entering into negotiations on the modernisation of the Energy Charter Treaty,

p. 2 (http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2019/may/tradoc_157884.pdf).

5 European Commission, Text proposal for the modernisation of the ECT – additional submission (https://ec.europa.eu/energy/sites/default/files/


6 https://www.energycharter.org/process/energy-charter-treaty-1994/energy-charter-treaty/.

7 https://www.energychartertreaty.org/cases/statistics/.

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid.

10 Ibid.

Energy Policy, Economy and Law

The Energy Charter Treaty at a Crossroads – Uncertain Times for Energy Investors

ı Max Stein

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July

Spain, which was sued 48 times,

stayed. In Germany, it is the recently

settled 11 nuclear power case –

Vattenfall v. Germany – that drew most

of the attention. While that case often

serves as an example for critics of

ISDS, it is often overlooked that Vattenfall

only requested what the German

Federal Constitutional Court

twice held to be its right. In its

2016 decision, the German Federal

Constitutional Court ruled that

Vattenfall and other nuclear energy

providers were to be afforded the thus

far denied adequate compensation. 12

Germany’s attempt to provide for such

compensation in the amended Atomic

Energy Act 2018 was then deemed

an “inadequate” remedy and even

“ unreasonable” by the Court in a later

decision in 2020. 13

The EU’s quest for a complete

overhaul of the ECT

As most of the ECT’s provisions had

not been revised since its entry into

force some 25 years ago, the ECT

Secretariat and the Contracting

Parties initiated a modernisation

process in 2018. 14

In 2019, the ECT

Conference approved some suggested

policy options for modernisation of

the Treaty and established as well as

mandated the so-called Modernisation

Group to start negotiations on the

modernisation of the Energy Charter

Treaty. 15 Five rounds of negotiations

have been held so far, with another

three rounds planned for the remainder

of this year. 16

Most Contracting

Parties to the ECT are generally in

favour of modernisation – only Japan

has reportedly indicated that it is not

necessary to amend the ECT. 17 But the

extent to which the Contracting

Parties wish for changes differs


The European Commission is

the strongest driver of a complete overhaul

of the ECT and given the EU’s

powerful position representing the

majority of the ECT’s Signatories and

Contracting Parties, the success of the

ongoing modernisation negotiations is

largely dependent on whether or at

least to what extent it will be able to

achieve the ambitious goals put

forward in its proposal in May 2020. 18

Generally speaking, the Commission’s

aim for modernisation is based on four

considerations: First, the Commission

seeks to end the ECT’s energy source

neutrality to avoid clashes with the

energy transition. Second, the Commission

proposes that the provisions

should take account of modern

standards of investment protections in

line with those agreements the EU has

concluded in recent years (e.g., CETA,

EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement)

and third, the Commission propagates

its approach on Investor-State- Dispute-

Settlement, inter alia by way of a multilateral

investment court. 19 Fourth, the

Commission has presented its proposal

expressly reserving its view that the

ECT does not allow intra- EU disputes.

The EU seeks to end the ECT’s

energy source neutrality to

avoid clashes with the energy


A major concern of the EU and its

Member States is that investors will

invoke the ECT to claim compensation

for measures aimed at implementing

the Paris Agreement and/or the

European Green Deal, the EU’s action

plan to be climate neutral in 2050.

Undoubtedly, the recent cases invoked

by RWE and Uniper against the

Netherlands in relation to the coal

phaseout have heightened that


Going into the fourth round of

negotiations held in March 2021,

the Commission “emphasise[d] the

urgent need for progress in the

nego tiations for the modernisation of

the Energy Charter Treaty, with a view

to driving an inclusive global energy

transition in alignment with Paris

Agreement objectives.” 20 The Commission’s

proposal is to “discourage all further

investments into fossil fuel based

energy infrastructure projects, unless

they are fully consistent with an ambitious,

clearly defined pathway towards

climate neutrality in line with the longterm

objectives of the Paris Agreement

and best available science.” 21

To achieve this, the Commission

proposes that the ECT’s investment

protection provisions shall not apply to

future investments in coal, natural gas,

petroleum and petroleum products as

well as electrical energy if it is produced

from one of the aforementioned

products. 22

Existing investments in

these energies shall only be protected

for another ten years after the entry

into force or provisional application of

the amendment to the Treaty (but not

later than 31 December 2040). Certain

exceptions are made only for investments

in gas pipelines and to investments

in the production of electrical

energy produced from petroleum

gases and other gaseous hydrocarbons

“through power plants and infrastructure

enabling the use of renewable and

low-carbon gases, and emitting less

than 380 g of CO 2 of fossil fuel origin

per kWh of electricity, in relation to

such investments.” 23

Investments in

nuclear energy will not be affected by

the Commission’s proposal, which is

fully in line with a recent publication

by the Joint Research Centre (JRC),

the European Commission’s scientific

expert arm, finding that its “analyses


11 Handelsblatt, 09/03/2021, (https://www.handelsblatt.com/meinung/kolumnen/homo_oeconomicus/homo-oeconomicus-die-milliarde-steuergeld-fuer-vattenfallhaette-nicht-bezahlt-werden-muessen/26987232.html?ticket=ST-286648-ueQ2sJJejdaRXylh7M3P-ap5).

12 BVerfG, decision dated 06/12/2016, Az. 1 BvR 2821/11 (https://www.bundesverfassungsgericht.de/SharedDocs/Entscheidungen/DE/2016/12/

rs20161206_1bvr282111.html); see also https://www.lto.de/recht/nachrichten/n/bverfg-1bvr282111-atomausstieg-verletzung-eigentumsgarantieentschaedigung-energiekonzerne/.

13 BVerfG, decision dated 29/09/020, Az. 1 BvR 1550/19 (https://www.bundesverfassungsgericht.de/SharedDocs/Entscheidungen/DE/2020/09/


14 https://www.energychartertreaty.org/modernisation-of-the-treaty/.

15 Ibid.

16 Ibid.

17 See e.g. a leaked report at pp. 14, 16 18 et al. (https://www.euractiv.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2020/12/ECT-report-on-progress-made_FS.pdf).

18 European Commission, Text proposal for the modernisation of the ECT (https://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2020/may/tradoc_158754.pdf); European

Commission, Text proposal for the modernisation of the ECT – additional submission (https://ec.europa.eu/energy/sites/default/files/


19 Council of the EU, Adoption of Negotiating Directives for the Modernisation of the Energy Charter Treaty, p. 3-5 (https://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/

ST-10745-2019-ADD-1/en/pdf); see also Council of the EU, Press release: Council adopts negotiation directives for modernisation of Energy Charter Treaty, 19/07/2019


20 https://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2021/february/tradoc_159436.pdf.

21 Ibid.

22 European Commission, Text proposal for the modernisation of the ECT – additional submission, p. 2 (https://ec.europa.eu/energy/sites/default/files/


23 Ibid.

Energy Policy, Economy and Law

The Energy Charter Treaty at a Crossroads – Uncertain Times for Energy Investors ı Max Stein

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did not reveal any science-based

evidence that nuclear energy does

more harm to human health or to the

environment than other electricity

production technologies already

included in the Taxonomy as activities

supporting climate change mitigation”.


The Commission propagates

“modern”, less investor-friendly

standards of protection

If the Commission had it its way, the

modernised ECT should explicitly

reaffirm the so-called “right to regulate”,

i.e., the right of the Contracting

Parties to take measures for the

protection of health, safety, the

environment and other public policy

objectives. 25

More specifically, the

Commission proposed a novel provision

concerning regulatory measures

stipulating that a Contracting Party’s

decision not to issue, renew or maintain

a subsidy – in the absence of any

specific commitment under law or

contract or in accordance with their

attached terms or conditions – does

not constitute a breach of the Treaty. 26

In the past, this has been the point

of contention in a number of ECT

disputes, especially in recent cases

concerning the rollback of states’

energy transition measures.

In addition, there are several other

changes to the key treaty definitions

and protection standards, all of which

seek to clarify and limit their application.

For example, the Commission

proposes an exhaustive list of examples

for the most-invoked treatment

standard, i.e. the fair and equitable

treatment standard. This would considerably

limit the scope of application

of this clause that has usually been

invoked as a catch-all phrase. The

Commission also seeks to materially

change the clause on “ expropriation”,

expressly allowing measures to combat

inter alia climate change by setting out

that “except in the rare circumstance

when the impact of a measure or series

of measures is so severe in light of its

purpose that it appears manifestly excessive,

non-discriminatory measures

by a Party that are designed and

applied to protect legitimate policy

objectives, such as the protection of the

environment, including combatting

climate change, the protection of

public health, social services, public

education, safety, public morals, social

or consumer protection, privacy and

data protection, or the promotion and

protection of cultural diversity do not

constitute indirect expropriations”.

The Commission also proposes a

number of new clauses, in particular

several new articles on sustainable

development, inter alia setting out

that each contracting state to the ECT

shall effectively implement the United

Nations Framework Convention on

Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the

purpose and goals of the Paris Agreement

as well as that prior to granting

authorizations for projects with a

potential impact on the environment,

an environmental impact assessment

shall be conducted.

The Commission propagates

its approach on Investor-State-

Dispute-Settlement, inter alia

by way of a multilateral

investment court

The Commission’s plans for modernisation

include the establishment of

a Multilateral Investment Court to

adjudicate ECT disputes instead of

the current arbitration tribunals

appointed by the parties 27 , which

some critics argue act as secret courts

in a parallel legal system. 28 A multilateral

reform process in this regard is

currently underway in the United

Nations Commission on International

Trade Law (UNCITRAL) but could

take years to complete. 29 Pending the

establishment of such a permanent

structure, the Commission invites

the other parties to consider, rather

than to actually propose, a modern Investment

Court System with “fully independent

and impartial adjudicators,

an appeal mechanism, and efficient

and transparent proceedings”,

such as those included in CETA and its

Investment Protection Agreements

with Vietnam and Singapore. 30

In addition to this, proposals on

procedure include (i) the possibility to

quickly reject frivolous claims, (ii)

more transparency, (iii) a possibility

for third parties to intervene in the

proceedings, and (iv) an obligation to

disclose third-party funding.

The Commission’s view that

the ECT does not apply to

intra-EU disputes

For a long time, the Commission has

advocated for the abolishment of

intra- EU ISDS, which it considers a

violation of EU law. Initially, the Commission

called upon the EU Member

States to renounce bilateral investment

treaties (BITs) between themselves

and it intervened in intra-EU

arbitrations, asserting that the tribunals

did not have jurisdiction because

the parties (i.e., an EU Member State

and an EU investor) could not validly

confer jurisdiction to an arbitral tribunal

on questions that may touch upon

EU law. These efforts largely proved

unsuccessful until the European Court

of Justice (ECJ) came to its aid. In

2018, the ECJ held in its Achmea

decision that arbitration clauses such

as the one in the BIT between the

Netherlands and the Slovak Republic

violate EU law. 31

This decision sparked new efforts

by the Commission to abolish intra-EU

BITs. In the wake of the Achmea

judgement, EU Member States issued

declarations undertaking to terminate

their (approximately 200) intra-EU

BITs 32 , which was eventually realised

24 Joint Research Centre, Science for Policy Report – Technical assessment of nuclear energy with respect to the ‘do no significant harm’ criteria of Regulation (EU)

2020/852 (‘Taxonomy Regulation’), 29/03/2021, p. 7 finding, inter alia, that “the analyses did not reveal any science-based evidence that nuclear energy does more

harm to human health or to the environment than other electricity production technologies already included in the Taxonomy as activities supporting climate change

mitigation” and “ the comparison of impacts of various electricity generation technologies (e.g. oil, gas, renewables and nuclear energy) on human health and the

environment […] shows that the impacts of nuclear energy are mostly comparable with hydropower and the renewables, with regard to non-radiological effects.”

25 European Commission, Text proposal for the modernisation of the ECT, p. 4-5 (https://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2020/may/tradoc_158754.pdf).

26 Ibid.

27 Ibid., p. 15-16.

28 Powershift et al., Busting the myths around the Energy Charter Treaty, 2020, p. 11 (“highly secretive, riddled with conflicts of interest and glaringly at odds with the

principle of judicial independence”).

29 European Parliament Think Tank, Multilateral Investment Court: Overview of the reform proposals and prospects, 28/01/2021 (https://www.europarl.europa.eu/

thinktank/en/document.html?reference=EPRS_BRI(2020)646147) speaking of several proposal reflecting “two distinct approaches and “[a]lthough states are eager to

reform the ISDS system, the complexity of the issue is likely to require additional sessions before agreement can be reached.”

30 European Commission, Text proposal for the modernisation of the ECT, p. 15 (https://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2020/may/tradoc_158754.pdf).

31 ECJ, Judgement of 06.03.2021, C-284/16 (“Achmea”) (https://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/


32 EU Member States, Declarations of the Member States on the legal consequences of the Achmea judgment and on investment protection, 15/16/01/2019


https://www.regeringen.se/48ee19/contentassets/d759689c0c804a9ea7af6b2de7320128/achmea-declaration.pdf, http://www.kormany.hu/


Energy Policy, Economy and Law

The Energy Charter Treaty at a Crossroads – Uncertain Times for Energy Investors

ı Max Stein

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July

in May 2020. 33 But for the Commission,

the job is not quite finished

because the ECT – at least on its face –

also allows for intra-EU ISDS. In its

proposal for amendments to the ECT,

the Commission has not included a

clause to specifically stipulate that the

ECT does not allow for intra-EU ISDS.

That may be due to the fact that not all

EU Member States agree with the

Commission. When – after the Achmea

decision – EU Member States declared

their intention to terminate intra-EU

BITs, only 22 Member States signed

the additional statement that the

Achmea decision applies equally to

intra-EU investor-State arbitration

under the ECT. 34 However, when publishing

its proposal, the Commission

declared that the “amendments to the

ECT set out by the EU in its proposal

do not affect the Commission’s view,

as expressed in the Communication

on the Protection of intra-EU Investment

of 19 July 2018, that the ECT

does not contain an investor-to-state

arbitration mechanism applicable to

investors from one EU Member State

investing in another.” 35

Energy investors must be aware

that even absent an express amendment

to the ECT, there are some

uncertainties. Many EU Member

States that were sued under the ECT

argue that while the Achmea decision

only pertained to bilateral investment

treaties, its rationale also applies to

the ECT. Objections of that type,

which have since been brought

forward by EU Member States in

ECT-proceedings against them, have

typically been rejected by arbitration

tribunals. However, after several futile

attempts by states, the Svea Court of

Appeal as well as Belgium have now

referred the question to the ECJ

whether Article 26 ECT can be understood

to allow for intra-EU ISDS. 36 Yet

another possible venue for a court –

and ultimately an ECJ decision – has

been opened up by the Netherlands.

In response to the claims initiated by

RWE and Uniper, the Netherlands

employed a German provision that

essentially allows German courts to

decide on the jurisdiction of arbitral

tribunals seated anywhere in the

world to declare that the initiated

arbitrations are inadmissible, arguing

that the Achmea ruling precludes

intra-EU investment arbitration under

the ECT. 37


The EU proposal faces considerable

obstacles. Given the unanimity

requirement of the Treaty 38 , the EU’s

ambitious objectives seem hard to

achieve. At the same time, as negotiations

drag on – not least because

the EU has been so ambitious – voices

become louder that call on the EU and

its Member States to withdraw from

the ECT.

Two groups in the European

Parliament – the Greens/EFA and the

European United Left/Nordic Green

Left – have already demanded the EU’s

withdrawal from the ECT irrespective

of any reform, arguing that the ECT

“enables [the] fossil fuel industry to

sue for lost revenues” 39 and that it is

“harmful and out dated”. 40 300 Members

of the Euro pean and National

Parliaments from across the EU and

different political parties called on EU

Member States to “explore pathways

to jointly withdraw from the ECT by

the end of 2020” if provisions that

protect fossil fuels are not deleted in

the modernisation negotiations and

ISDS provisions are not “scrapped

or fundamentally reformed and

limited”. 41 France and Spain, too, have

been pushing for the EU to leave the

Treaty. 42 A letter sent to the European

Commission by four French ministers

and state secretaries in December

2020 demands that given the lack of

progress in the negotiations, the

option of a coordinated withdrawal

of the European Union and its

Member States from the ECT should

be raised publicly and its legal,

institutional and budgetary modalities

should be assessed. 43 The

Spanish Deputy Prime Minister and

Minister of Ecological Transformation

– on Twitter 44

as well as,

reportedly, by letter to the

Commission 45 – also put a withdrawal

from the ECT on the agenda

should the reform not come to a

quick conclusion.

But these threats overlook the

fact that a withdrawal would achieve

the opposite of the desired effect.

A withdrawal from the ECT takes

one year to become effective. Once it

has become effective, the so-called

“sunset clause” 46 , which is common

in international investment protection

agreements, kicks in. By virtue

of this clause, existing investments

are protected for another twenty

years after effectiveness of the

termination. The ECT thereby protects

existing investments for

another 21 years after a country has

formally declared to withdraw from

it. By withdrawing from the ECT,

the EU Member States would essentially

set in stone the current – very

broad – level of protection for all

existing investments, i.e., in particular

the investments in oil, gas and

coal, whereas future investments

would not be protected.


33 23 EU Member States, EU Member States sign an agreement for the termination of intra-EU bilateral investment treaties, 05/05/2020


34 22 EU Member States, Declarations of the Member States on the legal consequences of the Achmea judgment and on investment protection, 15/01/2019


See the communication at https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX:52018DC0547&from=EN.

35 https://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/press/index.cfm?id=2148.

36 ECJ, C-155/21 (“Athena Investments”) https://curia.europa.eu/juris/showPdf.jsf;jsessionid=42F7950AB0965CC84E4BC982D989E620?text=

&docid=240361&pageIndex=0&doclang=EN&mode=lst&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=8656617; https://diplomatie.belgium.be/en/newsroom/news/2020/


37 Global Arbitration Review, Netherlands asks German court to halt ICSID claims, 18/05/2021


38 Art. 36 ECT.

39 Greens/EFA Group, Motion for a Resolution on the European Green Deal, B9-0040/2020, 10/01/2020, p. 26


40 GUE/NGL Group, Motion for a Resolution on the European Green Deal, B9-0044/2020/REV, 10/01/2020, p. 17


41 300 European and National Members of Parliament, Statement on the modernisation of the Energy Charter Treaty, 03/11/2020 (https://www.endfossilprotection.org/


42 Euractiv, EU pushes for fossil fuel phase-out in ‘last chance’ energy charter treaty talks, 18/02/2021 (https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy/news/

eu-pushes-for-fossil-fuel-phase-out-in-last-chance-energy-charter-treaty-talks/); Teresa Ribera (Spain’s Minister for the Ecological Transition), Tweet of 15/12/2020


43 https://www.euractiv.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2021/02/Letter_France_ECT.pdf.

44 https://twitter.com/Teresaribera/status/1338812479112171520.

45 https://www.politico.eu/article/eu-split-over-energy-charter-treaty-as-spain-floats-unilateral-withdrawal/.

46 Art. 47 (3) ECT.

Energy Policy, Economy and Law

The Energy Charter Treaty at a Crossroads – Uncertain Times for Energy Investors ı Max Stein

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July


The following scenarios set out

what may happen in the future and

what this could mean for energy


p Scenario 1 (modernisation along

the EU proposal): Despite its

ambition, one potential – and

certainly the most probable –

scenario is a modernisation – certainly

with some changes – along

the lines of the EU proposal. If that

came to pass, coal, oil and gas

investors would – at least pursuant

to the wording of the Treaty – lose

their protection under the ECT.

Others, in particular nuclear, solar,

wind and other energy sources

would still be protected, albeit with

a lot more leeway for states to

avoid having to pay compensation.

Irrespective of the modernisation,

intra-EU investors should follow

closely what the ECJ will decide on

the compatibility of intra-EU ISDS

with European law.

p Scenario 2 (less wide-ranging

modernisation): Another possible

scenario is a less wide-ranging

modernisation of the ECT. The

EU may decide that a withdrawal

from the ECT makes no sense.

In addition, the EU has a viable

interest in keeping the ECT alive,

not only to protect its investors

abroad but also to attract investment.

The EU’s European Green

Deal investment plan seeks to

mobilise at least €1 trillion to

support sustainable investments

over the next decade. 47

The EU

itself recognises that its budget

alone cannot meet the massive

investment needed but private

actors in particular will need to

provide the scale 48

and investors

may be more comfortable in doing

so with a robust ECT.

p Scenario 3 (withdrawal): Another

scenario is the withdrawal of

the EU and/or some or all of its

Member States from the ECT. The

likelihood of this scenario – despite

the current statements – is rather

low given that it would achieve the

opposite of what its proponents

want to achieve, namely extended

protection for fossil fuel producers.

For existing investors, a withdrawal

would not be a bad

outcome. By virtue of the sunset

clause, the withdrawing states

would continue to be bound by

the ECT for another period of

21 years. Similarly – and potentially

crucially – investors from the

withdrawing Member States would

continue to be protected in the area

of the remaining signatories to

the ECT for that period of time.

Generally, such protection should

also continue in the area of the

other withdrawing Member States

but it seems at least plausible that

the EU Member States may enter

into a termination agreement – as

they have done for intra-EU BITs –

by which they would agree not to

apply the sunset clause vis-à-vis


p Scenario 4 (termination): A

scenario that currently cannot

completely be ruled out is a termination

of the ECT altogether if all

Contracting States agreed that a

reform is not feasible. In this case,

the Treaty along with its investment

protection provision may –

subject to the structure of the

termination agreement – cease to

apply immediately. However, given

the conflicting interests among the

Treaty’s Signatories, this seems

highly unlikely.

What can energy

investors do?

What can energy investors do to deal

with this uncertainty? Existing investors

can take some comfort from the

ECT’s sunset clause. But it may be

worthwhile considering what other

treaties may be available – potentially

by way of a corporate restructuring of

the investment. A restructuring of an

investment that allows an investor to

benefit from another treaty is usually

considered a legitimate measure by

arbitral tribunals as long as the

restructuring is conducted before a

dispute has arisen or became foreseeable.

Once measures that lead to

the arbitration have been taken or

are looming, it is too late for a

restructuring. Therefore, it is precisely

those investors that currently are not

experiencing any adverse activities

from their host state that should

look into ensuring that they are comfortable

with their current level of

protection and the risk that this level

may deteriorate due to amendments

to the ECT.


Max Stein


Skadden, Arps, Slate,

Meagher & Flom,

Frankfurt, Germany


Max Stein is an attorney with Skadden, Arps, Slate,

Meagher & Flom LLP in Frankfurt, Germany. He acts

for companies and governments in complex litigation

and arbitration matters. Mr. Stein has handled

disputes involving energy, corporate, construction and

public international law. Selected matters as counsel

include representing a state in a multi-billion dollar

dispute under the ECT as well as German and international

companies regarding a biomass power plant

and wind parks. Mr. Stein has also advised energy

companies on the set-up of their investments to

benefit from treaty protection.

47 European Commission, The European Green Deal Investment Plan and Just Transition Mechanism explained, 14/01/2020


48 Ibid.

Energy Policy, Economy and Law

The Energy Charter Treaty at a Crossroads – Uncertain Times for Energy Investors

ı Max Stein

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July

Ireland Must Assess Domestic Nuclear Energy

Allan Carson

Ireland has a world-class power sector despite – or perhaps because of – having a small, poorly-interconnected grid.

The expertise embedded in the power sector is reflected in its successful integration of world-leading quantities of

variable, non-synchronous power generation into the electrical grid with little impact on system reliability to date.

Pioneering work enabled nonsynchro

nous renewables – predominantly

wind energy – to supply 40 %

of Ireland’s electricity on average, and

up to 70 % on occasion, in 2020.

This expertise will be truly tested

in an attempt to maintain a secure

electricity generating system while

averaging 70 % variable renewables,

and over 95 % on occasion, by 2030.

Even with success in these efforts, the

grid’s reliance on natural gas means

that emissions from power generation

will fall by less than half, leaving

Ireland with a higher emissions intensity

than is already achieved in many

European countries.

Power plant evolution

Ireland’s first government showed

extraordinary vision when they allocated

20 % of the 1925 revenue

budget to build a hydroelectric scheme

on the River Shannon capable of producing

17 times the nation’s power

demand at that time. As the world’s

first fully integrated (generation,

transmission, distribution, marketing

and sales) national electricity system,

it facilitated economic growth until,

by 1970, indigenous hydro and peat

fuel resources were being fully utilised

and power generation was also heavily

dependent on imported oil.

Nuclear energy was being considered

as a means of meeting the

projected rapid increases in power

demand when the oil crisis of 1973

struck. However, discovery of natural

gas reserves off Ireland’s South coast

in 1975, along with lower projections

of economic growth and growing

public opposition at a time of political

upheaval, led to the plans for nuclear

being dropped in 1980. The 915 MW

coal fired station that was built at

Moneypoint instead would dominate

the power sector for the following

30 years.

Natural gas gradually replaced oil

(and more recently coal) fired generation

and eventually grew to supply

65 % of Ireland’s power, where it remained

until relatively recently.

Although the All Ireland Grid Study in

2008 foresaw a technical limit of 40 %

from wind energy, this putative limit

| Figure 1

Ireland‘s electricity generating mix 2020 and 2030 (projected).

has been overcome through technical

expertise and improvements in the

operating performance of existing

units. However, the resultant additional

challenges relating to system

stability and reliability will require an

unprecedented upgrade to transmission

and grid infrastructure if the

renewable electricity plans are to be

realised. Ireland’s poor track record in

building new grid infrastructure over

recent years indicates a high degree of

risk that these upgrades may not

materialise as required to achieve the

70 % renewable energy target.

The National Climate Action Plan

2019 (CAP19), established to demonstrate

how Ireland would achieve its

emissions reduction target by 2030,

projects that 2030 will see a doubling

of power plant capacity, 73 % of which

will be non-synchronous from intermittent

sources, with most of the

remainder consisting of natural gas.

The Climate Action plan

To date, Ireland’s commitments to

meet ambitious emissions reduction

targets have been missed by a large

margin – in 2018, for example, emissions

were higher than in 2013, the

start of the accounting period for the

current EU binding commitment.

A 2018 Irish government review of

the national performance in reaching

the United Nations Sustainable

Development Goals indicated poor

performance from Ireland. Firstly, it

concluded that Ireland would not

meet the EU 2020 emissions reduction

targets, and secondly its dependence

on fossil fuel imports was expensive

and environmentally unsustainable.

The report stated that a low-carbon

future must ultimately involve moving

away from fossil fuels altogether, but

did not provide any examples of viable

alternatives to them.

The Irish Government’s Climate

Action Plan 2019 (CAP19) sets out an

ambitious course of action to address

the climate disruption that it says “is

already having diverse and wideranging

impacts on Ireland’s environment,

society, economic and natural

resources”. It initiates policy actions to

2030 and aims to define a roadmap

consistent with achieving a net zero

energy system by 2050.

The main features of CAP19 for

power generation in 2030, compared

to 2020, include:

p Variable renewable electricity

supply increase from 30 % to 70 %

p Variable renewable capacity

increase from 4,500 MW to around

13,500 MW

p All coal, peat and oil-fired power

stations to close

p Interconnection increase from

500 MW to 1,700 MW

p Hydro pumped storage plant

increase from 290 MW to 650 MW

p Battery storage plant increase to

1,700 MW, and

p Greenhouse gas emissions fall

from around 10 million tons to

4 - 5 million tons.

CAP19 contains no specific policy

statement on how to keep annual

power sector emissions on a reduction

pathway beyond 2030. Once the

power plant identified in CAP19 is

developed, installing more such plant


Energy Policy, Economy and Law

Ireland Must Assess Domestic Nuclear Energy ı Allan Carson

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July


| Figure 2

Projected power generation (left hand axis) and emissions (right hand axis),

if CAP19 is extended out to 2050 – 18for0 analysis.

is unlikely to achieve significant

additional emissions reduction

benefits. This is demonstrated in

Figure 2 which results from work

undertaken by 18for0 and shows

that a simple extension of the CAP19

policy will fail to achieve net zero

by 2050.


Full implementation of CAP19 for

power generation by 2030 is

recognised as a significant challenge

by the Irish national grid operator

(EirGrid), as it will require an unprecedented

transformation of the

entire electricity sector to remain

stable while being supplied by over

95 % non-synchronous generation for

extended periods.

EirGrid’s transmission development

plan is designed to increase

integration of non-synchronous generation

through various non­ energy

system services, including reserve and

fast frequency response to enhance

grid stability and reliability. These

services are likely to be ever more

important as the instantaneous

System Non-Synchronous Penetration

(SNSP) limit is increased from 65 %

to over 95 % by 2030 and possibly

to 100 % thereafter.

While EirGrid is at the forefront of

variable renewable integration into

electrical grids, there remains an

increased risk associated with extending

CAP19 due to the unprecedented

and uncertain nature of many

of the changes that are introduced

to accommodate the large percentage

of variable renewable generating

capacity within the electrical grid.

This could ultimately lead to an

increased risk of power shortages or


The need to mitigate these risks

in maintaining grid stability and

reli ability will likely lead to a continued

reliance on natural gas post

2030, hampering Ireland’s ability to

eliminate its reliance on fossil fuels

and to achieve the March 2021 legally

binding commitment to net zero by


Moreover, Ireland’s gas fields are

projected to be fully depleted by 2030,

leaving Scotland as the sole supplier

of natural gas. The very limited availability

of natural gas storage capacity

will heighten Ireland’s particular

vulnerability to market fluctuations

and geopolitical disruption.


CAP19 established a steering group to

examine the feasibility of using carbon

capture and storage (CCS) in Ireland,

and research is also underway into

using surplus renewable energy to

produce biofuels, synthetic gas,

hydro gen or a ‘Power-to-x’ technology.

None of these technologies has yet

been proven at scale and their

commerciality for power generation is

still uncertain.

More recently, a study undertaken

by the Centre for Energy, Climate

and Marine Research (MaREI), and

sponsored by the Wind Energy Ireland

trade association, modelled a route to

achieving net zero by 2050. The

model, while useful, was limited in

the breadth of technologies considered

and made a number of very

challenging assumptions concerning

technology that is not yet commercially


This model reflects current government

policy quite well, and highlights

the great amount of risk within that

policy. If the assumptions fail to be

realised, the Irish electricity generating

system could be locked into the

use of natural gas for the foreseeable

future and may not achieve net zero

by 2050.

It is entirely consistent with

Ireland’s environmental commitments

and imperative that the potential of

all low carbon forms of electricity

generation should be assessed.

Nuclear power is a proven, lowemissions

technology that the

European Council’s scientific arm, the

JRC, has recently found to be as

sustainable as other forms of low

carbon electricity generation.

18for0 undertook a study in 2020

that outlined a scenario for the introduction

of nuclear power into the Irish

power generation infrastructure. The

study found that generating 18 % of

Ireland’s electricity from nuclear

power technology would reduce

reliance on natural gas and would support

long-term, permanent reduction

in carbon emissions. See Figure 3,

which shows emissions continuing to

fall towards zero by 2040 when 18 %

nuclear energy is included in Ireland’s

power gene ration mix.

The study by 18for0 also outlines

how the introduction of nuclear power

would bring a wide range of economic

and societal benefits while decreasing

the cost of generating electricity. See

Figure 4.

18for0 is currently assessing ‘With

Nuclear’ costs against the scenario

outlined by MaREI.

Despite the obvious potential benefits

of the ‘With Nuclear’ scenario outlined

by 18for0, the Irish government

has confirmed that it has no intention

of considering nuclear power in its

future plans, citing the legislation that

currently prohibits nuclear power

from being developed in Ireland.

If Ireland is intent on retaining

affordable electricity while achieving

net zero by 2050, the government

must urgently commission an independent

assessment of all forms of

low carbon electricity generation

including nuclear power, in order to

understand the relative merits of our

net zero economy options.

Moving Forward

Ireland’s strategy to achieve net zero

by 2050 is currently uncertain, as it

relies on a single policy option that

depends heavily on assumptions

about technologies that are not

currently commercially available. To

address this, 18for0 is making a

number of requests of the Irish


Energy Policy, Economy and Law

Ireland Must Assess Domestic Nuclear Energy ı Allan Carson

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July


| Figure 3

Projected power generation (left hand axis) and emissions (right hand axis),

if nuclear energy is included after 2030 – 18for0 analysis.

| Figure 4

Cost of generating electricity between 2020 and 2050 with and without nuclear power.

18for0 is a clean energy

advocacy group of voluntary

professionals with over

150 years of combined

experience in the energy

industry. We are concerned

about the credibility of current

proposals to achieve net zero

emissions in Ireland by 2050.

Our name derives from our

assessment that introducing

18 % nuclear energy into a

power system dominated

by renewables would be

an effective way to reduce

power sector emissions to

their minimum.


First, to repeal the legislation that

prohibits nuclear power in Ireland.

Next, to commission an independent

assessment of all forms of low carbon

electricity generation to provide a

platform to ensure that the plan to

achieve net zero by 2050 is credible,

takes account of technology readiness

and can be updated as necessary.

Finally, to drive a public debate on

the use of nuclear power in Ireland,

possibly through a citizens assembly

or other appropriate forum.

18for0 has initiated discussions for

collaboration with industry partners

as we attempt to fill the void left by the

Irish government in the development

of pre-feasibility studies and nuclear

power policy proposals. We would

very much welcome contact from

those offering to provide support or

from those seeking further information

about our work.

Ireland needs to implement a

wider range of options than is outlined

in the current Climate Action

Plan if the required carbon emissions

reductions are to be achieved in

an affordable and environmentally

responsible manner. 18for0 is starting

a national conversation about the

future of Irish electricity production

and the potential role nuclear power

may play. The risks are too great – and

too urgent – to ignore.


Allan Carson


Allan Carson is a project manager and chemical

engineer with over a decade of experience working

within nuclear project development and licensing

both in the UK and internationally.

18for0 would like a Citizens’

Assembly to review the

legislation currently prohibiting

the development of nuclear

power in Ireland. We believe

that an official study should

also be conducted to assess

the viability of all forms of low

carbon electricity production

for deployment in Ireland, in

order to achieve climate targets.

Contact information





Energy Policy, Economy and Law

18for0 atw4-21 60x260v1.indd 1 22.06.21 10:08

Ireland Must Assess Domestic Nuclear Energy ı Allan Carson

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July



The ERDO Association

for Multinational Radioactive

Waste Solutions

There is a wide consensus that every country has a responsibility for ensuring

safe, environmentally acceptable disposal of its radioactive wastes. The

only recognised practicable solution for final disposal of highly active and

long-lived radioactive wastes is emplacement in a Geological Disposal

Facility (GDF). Thus, every country that produces such wastes should have

access to a GDF; the greatest volumes arise in countries using nuclear power,

but others also produce limited quantities of radioactive wastes from

medicine, industry or research (MIR) that should be routed to a GDF. This

solution requires the application of frontline science and technology, but it

does not require the development of fundamentally new technologies or

the emergence of new scientific approaches.

But implementation of a GDF is expensive in absolute

terms; national cost estimates range from a few to many

billions of US dollars. For a nuclear-power programme of

significant size, the disposal costs are still a relatively

minor part (a few percent) of the full nuclear fuel cycle

costs – but for small nuclear power programmes with

only one or a few nuclear reactors, and for countries with

only MIR radioactive wastes, meeting the costs can be a

serious challenge. Fortunately, as set out in documents

such as the IAEA Joint Convention on Spent Fuel and

Radioactive Wastes or the Waste Directive of the

European Commission, the international consensus

makes clear that, while every country does have the

responsibility mentioned above, the actual disposal

need not take place within the country producing

the waste.

Since the beginnings of commercial nuclear power

production, and especially over the past 25 years, there

have been numerous initiatives assessing the potential

role of multinational repositories (MNRs) in enhancing

global safety, security and environmental protection.

Early studies led by the Arius Association, in particular

the EC-funded SAPIERR projects, analyzed the benefits

and challenges associated with implementing an MNR

and the interest of European countries in the topic was

clearly demonstrated by the active participation of

14 countries in the work. This led in 2009 to the

establishment of a self-financed Working Group to

carry out the necessary groundwork to enable the

establishment of one or more operational, shared multinational

waste management solutions. Cooperation

over the last 11 years between 12 countries with smaller

amounts of radioactive waste led at the beginning of

2021 to the establishment of a new Association – the

ERDO Association for Multinational Radioactive Waste

Solutions. ERDO is based at the headquarters of the

Dutch radioactive waste management agency, COVRA,

and is registered in the commercial register of The

Netherlands. In this article, we give an overview of the

goals of the Association, the benefits that can accrue to

its Members and the initial programme of work.

Our goals are:

P to work together to address the common challenges

of safely managing the long-lived radioactive wastes

in our countries

P to carry out the necessary groundwork to enable the

establishment of one or more operational, shared

multinational waste management solutions

The Logic of a

Dual-Track Approach

Every country has a national responsibility under the

IAEA Joint Convention and, for EU Member States, under

the EC Waste Directive, to establish a programme

and schedule for the safe management and disposal

of radioactive wastes and spent fuel. This requires

substantial financial, technical, and human resources to

be invested. Because many of the challenges faced are

common to different countries, there are potential

benefits to be gained through sharing knowledge,

technologies and facilities.

P Shared, multinational approaches to common

problems have economic advantages: the work

and the costs involved in developing a national

programme can be reduced.

P Decades of cooperative RD&D have helped to

optimise technical solutions but shared strategic

initiatives to implement joint solutions and facilities

can optimise the costs of waste management

P There will be strategic and economic benefits for

countries that make use of shared facilities – and also

benefits to countries that host these.

P Every country using nuclear technologies generates

some wastes that require geological disposal. A deep

geological repository (DGR) is the most complex

waste management facility to implement. For almost

all countries, target dates for operation of a national

DGR lie decades into the future. This allows ample

At a Glance

The ERDO Association for Multinational Radioactive Waste Solutions

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July



time for evaluation in parallel of the shared DGRs

that are one focus of the ERDO Association. Our

members are developing both options until the

optimum solution for each country becomes

apparent – this is the Dual-Track approach. It allows

countries to keep options open whilst fulfilling their

obligations to the IAEA and the EC.

P Dual-Track maintains flexibility and meets national

and international responsibilities.

P Involvement in Dual-Track projects implies no prior

commitment to use or host a shared DGR.

P It is already the preferred option of several European


P The prospect of a shared disposal solution encourages

the development of common technical approaches

to the interim treatment and storage of radioactive


P Dual-Track encourages developing effective national

capabilities not only for a domestic programme, but

also to act as a provider or an ‘intelligent customer’ of

shared solutions.

What will

the ERDO Association do?

ERDO envisages a long-term programme of shared

activities that aim to spin-off concrete solutions to waste

management problems and, eventually to enable

progress towards shared facilities. As a relatively small,

self-financed body, the ERDO Association can concentrate

resources and manage projects effectively on

modest budgets with efficient timescales. Specifically,

the ERDO Association will:

P Act as an open forum for sharing technical knowledge

and experiences among its members through regular

meetings to share information and update each other

on progress.

P Identify and carry out projects to achieve specific

aims: these will build on projects transferred from the

ERDO Working Group, which are currently studying

costs of shared disposal, the pre-disposal issues

associated with managing legacy wastes and the

potential for developing a reference deep borehole

disposal solution that could be incorporated into

members’ national programmes.

P Establish a knowledge centre for members to assist

them in resolving issues in their own programmes.

P Act as knowledge centre for external organisations

seeking expertise in shared solutions.

P Act as a voice in the international media and fora to

promote shared waste management solutions.

Membership and Governance

The ERDO Association operates under the legal

requirements of an association laid down in Dutch law.

Below some of the key aspects of membership are listed.

The full details are documented in the Articles of the


P Membership is open to any organisation supporting

the aims of the Association: commonly, ministries,

waste management organisations, regulators,

research entities or international organisations.

P The Association is managed by a Board elected by

the Members from within their number and a

Secretariat, which is based at the offices of COVRA in

the Netherlands.

P Annual contributions from Members finance the

work of the Secretariat and any external project work

decided by the Members.

P Organisations from seven countries have participated

in preparation of the Association. Until now, six

countries have confirmed membership:

P ARAO, Slovenia

P COVRA, Netherlands

P Dekom – Danish Decommissioning, Denmark

P Fond-NEK, Croatia

P NND, Norway

P Ministry of Climate and Environment, Poland


If you’d like to learn more about the ERDO’s

activities, please visit www.erdo-wg.com

or contact the ERDO Secretariat:

secretariat@erdo.org or


At a Glance

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atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July



10 Years of Phasing Out Nuclear Power,

10 Years of Decommissioning,

Dismantling and Transformation –

How the Nuclear Power Segment of EnBW

Has Successfully Reinvented Itself

Jörg Michels

Introduction The tenth anniversary of the reactor accident in Fukushima and the unexpected shutting down of

nuclear power plants in Germany was an occasion for reflection, for the management of the EnBW nuclear power

segment as well: on the time ten years ago, on the changes initiated back then, and on everything which has been

achieved in the meantime right up to today. From this general perspective, the results make us proud in hindsight.

Who would have thought at that time that the nuclear power segment of EnBW would achieve such a complete

transformation in these ten years?

The tsunami which hit the Japanese

coast on March 11, 2011, caused

immense suffering. It sparked global

consternation and will remain a painful

memory not only for the people

in Japan. The impact on the power

plants at the Fukushima Daiichi site

provoked international discussions on

the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

March 11, 2011, ultimately became a

decisive date for the nuclear power

sector in Germany, and for EnBW.

What was the situation at EnBW

Kernkraft GmbH just before these

events? In the fall of 2010, the German

federal government had taken the

political decision to extend the

operating period for four of the five

EnBW plants, and enshrined it in law.

Our plans and preparatory work were

subsequently directed toward this

extension. At the same time, the

decommissioning and dismantling

work on one of our plants – the

Obrigheim nuclear power plant

(KWO) – had been underway since

2008. With the remaining four plants,

we generated around 35 billion kilowatt

hours of electricity per year – this

corresponded to about half the

demand in Baden-Württemberg 1 . The

“Units 2” in Philippsburg (KKP) and

Neckarwestheim (GKN) re peatedly

made the global Top Ten of power

generation. We employed around

1,800 people. Our whole thinking and

all our activity were directed toward

safety and the pro fessional implementation

of regular procedures, we saw

ourselves as a guarantor for the security

of supply.

And today? The signs in the

sta tistics have been reversed. Four of

our plants are meanwhile being

decommissioned and dismantled.

And one – Unit 2 in Neckar westheim –

will only generate power until the end

of 2022 at the latest. Its output still

corresponds to around one sixth of the

demand in Baden- Württemberg –

around 11 billion kilowatt hours per

year. Our staff numbers have shrunk

to around 1,500. A new development

is that our pronounced concern for

safety is now accom panied by a further,

supplementary expertise: the

flexible and professional execution of

complex tasks which are always new

and result from the requirements

imposed on the decommissioning and

dismantling projects at all sites. Our

staff are well aware that we as a team

have become Germany’s number one

for decommissioning and dis mantling,

and are now experts in the management

of major projects. – This is a

steep development for an operator

that until then was tweaked to repeated

routines and regularity.

This development started with the

acknowledgement back in spring 2011

that the use of nuclear energy in

Germany was finally over and done

with as a consequence of the events in

Fukushima. This realization meant we

were able to set course for the future

early and unreservedly, and embark

on a completely new direction. Our

attitude was and is clear: We will

accept the nuclear power phase-out

and expedite the decommissioning

and dismantling of the nuclear power

power plants, with no ifs or buts!

We started work immediately on

a decommissioning strategy for all

EnBW nuclear power plants, which we

were able to conclude in the middle of

2012. The key points of our strategy

are the direct, safe decommissioning

and dismantling of all our plants, a

holistic approach to the licensing procedures,

and giving due consideration

to the logistics, waste treatment,

disposal, i.e., planning right through

to the end of the process chain. One

linchpin of the strategy was moreover

that we used our own, specialist staff

for the decommissioning and dismantling

right from the start. This

allowed us to rapidly provide secure

prospects and achieve the changes of

the past ten years together with our

own staff. Our appreciation for both

existing and new know-how motivated

our staff to acquire new, exciting

skills which facilitate the management

of major projects. It was important

for our company culture as well

that we decided against enforced

redun dancies in our strategy at an

early stage, and concluded a works

agreement with the employees’

represen tatives on safeguarding jobs.

The necessary adjustments to staffing

numbers were done mainly by making

use of the demographic change and

partial retirement schemes.

Everyone who is involved with the

deconstruction and decommissioning

and dismantling of nuclear power

plants knows how long it takes until a

license is granted and thus until the

actual start of the decommissioning

and dismantling work. Extensive

preparatory work is required for the

submission of the application alone,

since in Germany the concept for the

complete decommissioning and dismantling

of a plant must be included

1 One of sixteen partly sovereign federated states of Germany

Decommissioning and Waste Management

10 Years of Phasing Out Nuclear Power, 10 Years of Decommissioning, Dismantling and Transformation – How the Nuclear Power Segment of EnBW Has Successfully Reinvented Itself ı Jörg Michels

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July

with the application, among other

things. In addition to the one to two

years it takes to prepare an application,

there will be another three to

four years for the actual licensing

procedure. It was thus all the more

important to us to take into consideration

all the plants to be dismantled

and to lose no time during this long

stretch by having a strategy which is as

efficient as possible. The licensing

procedures usually always involve

formal public participation, but our

strategic considerations of 2011/2012

also included plans for open and

dialog­ oriented communication, quite

independent of our formal obligations.

In the localities where our

power plants are sited, the decommissioning

and dismantling was not a

topic on everybody’s lips, so we invested

a great deal in information and

education: What does decommissioning

and dismantling actually

mean? We are therefore putting our

faith in a transparent process and

frank dis cussion with the public, with

officials such as local mayors and local

councilors, as well as NGOs.

The rigorous implementation of

our decommissioning and dis mantling

strategy has proved its worth so far.

Several facts speak in its favor:

p All five nuclear power plants

owned by EnBW are formally integrated

into the decommissioning

und dismantling process.

p For four of our five plants (KWO,

GKN I, KKP 1, KKP 2), the whole

decommissioning and dismantling

program has already been fully

approved within the legal framework

of the Atomic Energy Act.

Only the decommissioning and

dismantling license for GKN II is

still outstanding, but its licensing

procedure is already far advanced.

We therefore expect to be the first

operator in Germany to have received

decommissioning and dismantling

license for all its blocks.

p GKN I was the first German

“ moratorium plant” to go into decommissioning

and dismantling,

and at the same time the first

where decommissioning and dismantling

with fuel elements still in

the plant was approved.

p KKP 2 was the first plant whose

decommissioning and dismantling

was approved in a single full

license, and where the license was

obtained before the plant was

switched off. Shutdown and

dismantling could therefore start

almost without a post-operation


p Given the number of licenses

necessary, we were able to increase

efficiency: While four licenses were

needed for the KWO, the number

decreased to two for the “Units 1”

in Neckarwestheim and Philippsburg,

and finally to one for the

“Units 2”.

p As a “sideline”, we undertook the

first castor transport on a German

inland waterway and were the first

to use blasting demolition to

demolish the cooling towers at a

nuclear plant site in Germany.

p At the same time, and this is just as

important, we have ensured safe

and economic power generation at

KKP 2 (until the end of 2019) and


Before I return to the decommissioning

and dismantling, I would like

to first describe our two special projects

“castor transport” and “cooling

tower demolition”, because they

illustrate how we have evolved further

to become a project expert.

CASTOR transports

on the River Neckar

The idea to move the Obrigheim fuel

elements to Neckarwestheim came as

a result of the overall considerations

which we conducted from 2011

onwards. In Obrigheim – where dismantling

had been underway since

2008 – there were still 342 spent fuel

elements in a wet storage facility. This

storage facility would have obstructed

the further decommissioning and

dismantling in Obrigheim. To avoid

having to construct a separate, new,

intermediate storage facility for the

fuel elements in Obrigheim, we had

decided to package the fuel elements

in castor casks and transfer them by

ship to the interim storage facility at

Neckarwestheim. There was still

sufficient space here – because of the

nuclear phase-out in Germany.

The route along the river had

several key advantages. Since the

| Figure 1

Castor transports on the River Neckar.

power plants in Obrigheim and

Neckarwestheim are both located

directly beside the river, only short

distances were involved in the loading

and unloading. In addition, transporting

things by ship has very little

impact on private transport.

After four years of planning, the

time came: After comprehensive

functionality tests in Neckarwestheim,

in Obrigheim, and on the

River Neckar, 2017 saw us transfer

three castor casks in each of five

castor transports from Obrigheim to

Neckarwestheim. The 50 kilometers

along the river from Obrigheim to

Neckarwestheim took around eleven

hours per trip. All 15 CASTOR casks

arrived safely in Neckarwestheim,

and were moved into the appropriate

interim storage facility.

Apart from ensuring that the

transfer was safe at all times, we

considered the transparent communication

with the 19 neighboring

municipalities, the residents, and the

media to be particularly important

in this project. The comprehensive

information, which we had provided

in advance and communicated at a

great many events, ultimately had

a beneficial effect on the smooth

execution of the transports: In

contrast to earlier castor transports

in Germany, everything went peacefully.

In fact, we even received a lot

of positive feedback from mayors and

politicians about our operation.

Overall, the way was then clear

for the further deconstruction and

decom missioning in Obrigheim. The

building in which the fuel elements

had previously been stored could then

be directly included in the decommissioning

and dismantling.

Blast demolition of the

Philippsburg cooling towers

Our most spectacular project based on

its visual impact was the blast demolition

of the Philippsburg cooling


Decommissioning and Waste Management

10 Years of Phasing Out Nuclear Power, 10 Years of Decommissioning, Dismantling and Transformation – How the Nuclear Power Segment of EnBW Has Successfully Reinvented Itself ı Jörg Michels

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July


| Figure 2

Blast demolition of the Philippsburg cooling towers.

towers. Many still remember the

images from May 14, 2020: After four

years of intense project work, we

demolished the two towers containing

a total of 65,000 tonnes of concrete in

only 25 seconds. In procedures which

sometimes lasted several years, we

had had to prove to various authorities

and the Baden-Württemberg Ministry

of the Environment, in particular, that

a blast demolition was fundamentally

feasible on our site, and could not lead

to any non-permissible impacts on our

installations and the environment.

Despite the more difficult conditions

caused by the coronavirus

pandemic, the cooling tower demolition

was an absolutely successful

project for us, because the demolition

was carried out to benefit the transition

to renewable energy and should

not be simply delayed because of the

coronavirus pandemic. This demolition

was necessary to make space for

a converter, which is required to make

electricity generated from renewable

sources in the North usable here in

Southern Germany. Work on building

this converter started several months

ago – after the towers had been

successfully demolished. A real milestone

for the transition to renewable


To prevent large crowds of people

gathering, we had agreed with the

police and the surrounding municipalities

not to publicize the date of

the blasting demolition in advance.

We dealt with these general stipulations

as well as possible, however, and

provided comprehensive information

on our project before the blasting took

place. We arranged several telephone

conferences for the press, distributed

around 75,000 leaflets to local

residents, published a website with all

relevant information, and coordinated

everything very closely with the

adjacent municipalities. In addition,

we decided to film and photograph

the whole blast demolition with

21 cameras of our own. We then made

this material available to the public

and the media directly after the blast.

Since we received large numbers of

inquiries after the blast demolition

from people who wanted to have a

memento, we also organized the

distribution of fragments in compliance

with coronavirus legislation,

and around 1,200 fragments in total

were collected from us as mementoes.

Both projects – the castor transport

on the River Neckar and the demolition

of the cooling towers – were

courageous, and not every external

observer thought it would be feasible

at the beginning. The fact that we

were able to successfully execute them

showed all our staff that we do not

have to shy away from any challenge.

Decommissioning status

in Obrigheim

But now to our decommissioning and

dismantling projects. I would like to

start here with our decommissioning

and dismantling pioneer – the

Obrigheim nuclear power plant –

where decommissioning began back

in 2008 and whose decommissioning

and dismantling is planned to be

completed in accordance with the

Atomic Energy Act by the middle of

the 2020s. In Obrigheim, the turbine

building was the first venue for the

dismantling work. Turbines, generators,

condensers, and numerous

vessels and pipes were removed a long

time ago so that the turbine building

became an empty shell at an early

stage, which we use today as a storage


The same pretty much applies to

the reactor building. The steam

generators, each weighing around

160 tonnes, and the reactor pressure

vessel weighing around 135 tonnes,

have been removed, as have the biological

shield and further concrete

structures. Wire saws have been used

to cut up a total of 3,800 tonnes of

concrete into more than 200 individual

blocks. We succeeded in finishing

this work in 2019. Very recently, we

finished dismantling the massive

reactor building crane, and can now

fully concentrate on the measurement

and decontamination of the buildings.

We are already casting our gaze

toward the day we are no longer

subject to the Atomic Energy Act.

Decommissioning status

in Neckarwestheim

At the Neckarwestheim site, the

decommissioning and dismantling of

Unit I (GKN I) has been ongoing since

February 2017. In spring 2017, we

began by cutting up the main coolant

pipes and separated them from the reactor

pressure vessel. We used a

special pipe cutting machine for this,

which practically milled itself through

the pipes step by step. The main

coolant pumps, which are meanwhile

all dismantled, were also in this area.

We also started work early on the

reactor pressure vessel. We flooded

the basin above it so as to be able to

dismantle the internals of the vessel

under water by remote control. Tried

and tested techniques such as circular

saws or bolt assembly and gripping

tools were used here. This work meant

we removed a large proportion of the

radioactivity present in the plant at

| Figure 3

Empty turbine building at KWO.

| Figure 4

Empty reactor building at KWO.

Decommissioning and Waste Management

10 Years of Phasing Out Nuclear Power, 10 Years of Decommissioning, Dismantling and Transformation – How the Nuclear Power Segment of EnBW Has Successfully Reinvented Itself ı Jörg Michels

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July

| Figure 5

Steam Generator Replacement in GKN I.

| Figure 7

Dismantling the Containment Vessel in KKP 1.

the time. In 2021, we will cut free the

reactor pressure vessel and start to

dismantle it. From our point of view, it

is remarkable that we are able to

tackle this step in Neckarwestheim

only four years after starting the

decommissioning and dismantling –

in Obrigheim it was around eight

years before we could start. This

shows the advances we have made in

know-how and efficiency.

In 2020, we dismantled the three

steam generators – each weighing

around 290 tonnes, and thus the

largest and heaviest components in

the reactor building – and lifted them

from their original installation

position with the aid of the building

crane, before moving them out. This

was precision work which our experts

had planned and prepared in advance

right down to the last detail. Apart

from the above-mentioned reactor

pressure vessel, the building is now

largely emptied of all components.

At GKN I, the decommissioning

and dismantling in the turbine

building, which used to have two

separate turbine installations, is

ongoing in parallel. The key major

components are also already dismantled.

They include the heaviest

single component which has to be

dealt with during the whole decommissioning

and dismantling of this

plant – a generator stator weighing

around 440 tonnes. We used a crane

to lift it from where it was mounted,

took it to the pier at GKN with the aid

of a special truck, and transported it

away along the River Neckar.

Decommissioning status

in Philippsburg

Philippsburg is currently characterized

by the fact that two nuclear

power plants are being decommissioned

there in parallel: KKP 1 since

2017 and KKP 2 since 2020. Similar to

Neckarwestheim, the work at KKP 1

initially focused on the reactor

pressure vessel. One of the first things

we did was to cut up the head of the

reactor pressure vessel with a wire

saw. We then started dismantling the

reactor pressure vessel internals. As

in Neckarwestheim, we carried out

this operation largely under water and

with tools which were remotely

operated from stages. The next step

was to start dismantling the containment

vessel which surrounds the

reactor pressure vessel. We began by

removing the outer steel containment

and then started to cut up the concrete,

which is more than one meter

| Figure 6

Reactor Coolant Pump Replacement in GKN I.

| Figure 8

Generator Replacement in KKP 1.

thick in places, with the aid of a wire

saw so that we finished with several

hundred individual blocks. We always

compare this with cutting the top off a

boiled egg, and then gradu ally removing

the shell piece by piece.

In parallel, we have already made

great progress with the turbine

building of Unit 1. We have already

dismantled the generator which

weighs around 650 tonnes in total

together with all the individual

components. Our next step was to

open up a further key element of the

turbine building, namely the turbines.

To this end, we had to saw up the

cover hoods into lots of small pieces

and remove them.

In Unit 2, we were able to start the

initial work almost as soon as it was

shutdown. Here as well – as with the

other pressurized water reactors – the

preparations included the successful

decontamination of the primary

circuit. Afterwards, we started to cut

through the main coolant pipes, and

were able to complete this work in

spring 2021. We thus again created

the conditions for the next big step

in the decommissioning and dismantling,

i.e., the dismantling of the

installations of the reactor pressure



Decommissioning and Waste Management

10 Years of Phasing Out Nuclear Power, 10 Years of Decommissioning, Dismantling and Transformation – How the Nuclear Power Segment of EnBW Has Successfully Reinvented Itself ı Jörg Michels

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July


Commissioning of the

residual waste treatment and

interim storage infrastructure

As mentioned in the introduction,

we already considered the complete

decommissioning und dismantling

process chain in our decommissioning

strategy in 2011, i.e., not only the

dismantling work but also the topics

of logistics, residual waste treatment,

and disposal. How to subsequently

deal with the material which has been

removed is a challenge which must

not be under estimated. We realized at

an early stage that the processing of

the resi dual material cannot only

be derived from the stipulations of

the Closed Substance Cycle Waste

Manage ment Act, it also has to make

sense overall.

We therefore decided early on to

construct a residual waste treatment

facility in both Philippsburg and

Neckarwestheim. Even when only a

small part of all the material from a

power plant ends up in waste treatment,

this proportion still amounts to

a few ten thousand tonnes of material.

With these centers, we can not only

reduce the volume of radioactive

waste but also return as many

materials as possible into the material

life cycle – just as the Closed Substance

Cycle Waste Management Act intends.

Simultaneously, we thus also decouple

the decom missioning and dismantling

from the disposal, and minimize

deconstruction-related transports.

We constructed each residual

waste treatment facility together with

a site waste material storage facility

for low to intermediate level radioactive

waste products in one go. Last

year, we transferred both these to

the federal BGZ Gesellschaft für

Zwischenlagerung mbH 2 in accordance

with the reorganization of

responsibilities stipulated in the Act

on the Reorganization of Responsibility

in Nuclear Waste Management.

We started the approval procedure

necessary for the construction and

operation of the residual waste

treatment facilities in 2014. Having

received the construction approvals,

construction started in 2016, and at

the beginning of 2021, the “hot” commissioning

of the installations was

completed so that the residual waste

treatment has meanwhile been able to

start. Overall, the construction and

operation of the residual waste treatment

facilities, and the two waste material

storage facilities as well, are major

investments in our decommissioning

and dismantling infra structure,

which ensure efficient and sustainable

decommissioning and dismantling at


Interim summary

Looking back, we therefore consider

the outcome of the past ten years to be

very positive and feel that the new

direction we embarked on in 2011 –

after the political decision to phase

out nuclear power generation in

Germany – was the right decision. We

are glad we put our faith in our own,

experienced staff, because this turned

out to be one of the factors in our

success. The transparency of the

decisions we made and the progress

we achieved ensured that everyone

involved could follow our thinking

and was motivated to work with us.

The realization that we can successfully

manage complex major projects

has enabled us to give our staff

prospects for the future above and

beyond the day on which the last

decommissioning and dismantling

work is completed.

But all this is merely an interim

result. In the years ahead, we expect

our residual waste treatment will

really get going. We will finish the

decommissioning and dismantling at

Obrigheim within the framework of

the Atomic Energy Act in the middle

of the decade. We will continually

adapt our in-house organization to

milestones we have achieved, e.g.,

after the shutdown of Unit II in

Neckarwestheim toward the end of

2022. We definitely want to keep our

promise to complete the nuclear

decommissioning and dismantling of

our nuclear power plants within one

generation. And we will continue to

work safely and responsibly –

accompanied by open and transparent



Jörg Michels

Chair of the Board

of Management

EnBW Kernkraft GmbH,

Karlsruhe, Germany


Jörg Michels graduated in electrical engineering

from the TU Karlsruhe and then joined EnBW, where

he has worked for more than 25 years in the nuclear

engineering segment of EnBW and has held a variety

of management functions there. Since 2012, he has

been Chair of the Board of Management of EnBW

Kernkraft GmbH, where he heads the Deconstruction

and Decommissioning portfolio. Moreover, he sits on

the Management Board and is also a member of

committees of VGB Power Tech, the industry association,

and was a member of the electrical installations

committee of the Reactor Safety Commission for

several years. Furthermore, he is Governor in the Paris

Center of the World Association of Nuclear Operators


2 The mandate of BGZ Gesellschaft für Zwischenlagerung mbH (Company for Interim Storage) is derived from the Act on the Reorganisation of Responsibility in Nuclear

Waste Management. The responsibilities for the decommissioning and dismantling of nuclear power plants and for the disposal of radioactive waste in Germany

were redefined at the end of 2016: This Act states that the operators of nuclear power plants are responsible for decommissioning and dismantling, as well as for the

proper packaging of radioactive waste. The implementation and financing of interim and final storage is the responsibility of the Federal Government.

Decommissioning and Waste Management

10 Years of Phasing Out Nuclear Power, 10 Years of Decommissioning, Dismantling and Transformation – How the Nuclear Power Segment of EnBW Has Successfully Reinvented Itself ı Jörg Michels

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July

Circular Economy –

Lessons Learned, from and for Nuclear

Edward Kee and Ruediger Koenig with collaboration by Geoff Bauer and Julien Halfon

This article is part III of a 3-part series on challenges, opportunities and lessons-learned related to nuclear in the circular economy. Topics:

I Nuclear New Build – How to Move Forward (atw 1/2021)

II Nuclear Plant – End-of-Life Strategies

III Circular Economy – Lessons Learned, from and for Nuclear

Intro In our first two articles in this series 1 we discussed challenges and strategies for nuclear new build and nuclear

decommissioning. We have had the privilege to explore these questions with partners in the nuclear industry as well as

in other energy business, in finance, and in politics – and we will continue these discussions in the coming months.

It is becoming increasingly clear that

decommissioning and repurposing of

energy property and plant will be a

key factor in the business models of

all parties engaged in the energy

transition. Figure 1 summarizes our

initial conclusions in in “The Other

End Of The Rainbow”.

The nuclear industry provides

perhaps the most concise and extreme

example in terms of technical and

regulatory complexity and unit cost –

but programmatically it sets the standard,

not the exception for decommissioning.

And yet, moving forward, the

topic includes and transcends the

simple, classic view of an asset life.

New Market Opportunities

The following statement by Mr. Julien

Halfon of BNP PARIBAS Asset

Management sums up the new dimension

2 :

“Secular trends are forcing

­companies to reconfigure their

­business models. Those that succeed

will build more sustainable balance

sheets by diversifying and taking

­advantage of key trends driven in

part by populism but increasingly by

regulatory pressure. … The pre-­

funding of long-term liabilities for

nuclear, oil & gas, power and mining

companies can be seen as a leading

opportunity to further develop and

enhance a sustainable business


A forward-looking view towards future energy markets:

p Over the next 2 or so decades, most expect that the world will be building an entire new, decarbonized

energy infrastructure, with electricity taking a larger share of total energy mix and requiring new types of

energy services (such as storage, P2X conversion, smart grid functionalities, frequency control, etc.)

p In parallel, the industrialized world will also be decommissioning the existing carbon- based energy

producing and electricity generating fleet. In addition, the new energy system will have a greater share of

shorter- lived assets, with decommissioning of the first and second and next generations of wind and solar

farms and other facilities.

p In other words, we will need a highly efficient industrial structure to build, operate, and decommission

several trillion Euros of energy assets in a 20-to-30-year period.

What lessons can be learned from the nuclear power industry in creating a sustainable “circular economy” in

the electricity industry and energy markets? How can the nuclear power industry participate in the circular

economy by addressing its own unique end-of-life challenges? What about the huge infrastructure build

programme needed to decarbonize Europe and other industrialized countries with a mix of wind, solar, CCS,

hydrogen, and new nuclear power. What is the best way to protect the communities and other stakeholders

against future legacy issues?

| Figure 1

Insights gained in “Other End of Rainbow” (atw 2/21).

Indeed, the scale of the challenge, total global decommissioning liabilities,

for existing assets have been estimated at conservatively USD 3,6 trillion 3 as

represented in Figure 2:

| Figure 2

Decommissioning as a 3,6 Trillion Dollar Challenge.


1 See our articles in atw 01/2021 (p. 9) https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/read/65168156/atw-international-journal-for-nuclear-power-012021/09 and

atw 02/2021 (p. 46) https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/read/65334113/atw-international-journal-for-nuclear-power-022021

2 Reflecting a finding from this report: Decommissioning As A $3,6 Trillion Challenge, The asset manager for a changing world, BNP PARIBAS Asset Management,

May 2020 – https://docfinder.bnpparibas-am.com/api/files/65DC8307-F884-47B9-BE20-660DB337B978?

3 We note that this is a low estimate of a much larger reality. Larger amounts will be expected with better insights in South America and MENA and when renewables

are fully reflected. Source: Decommissioning As A $3,6 Trillion Challenge, The asset manager for a changing world, BNP PARIBAS Asset Management, May 2020 –


Decommissioning and Waste Management

Circular Economy – Lessons Learned, from and for Nuclear ı Edward Kee and Ruediger Koenig with collaboration by Geoff Bauer and Julien Halfon

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July


And of course, this amount will

increase as current and ongoing

new-build assets will also need to be

decommissioned in a not-too-distant

future. This will include many fossilfueled

power plants before their end

of life due to decarbonization policies

and renewable plants due to shorter

asset life (i.e., due to technical limitations

but also technological improvements).

With this large wave of

decommissioning come methodological

questions, such as how to

differentiate between the “cost” of

decommissioning and an “investment”

made to repurpose the site of

the decommissioned facility.

Elements of a

Holistic Approach

With new technologies and new

business models in a new market

design, transfers of assets (i.e., along

with decommissioning requirements,

liabilities, and responsibilities) will be

of growing importance.

As a starting point, a holistic

approach to decommissioning will

consist of at least these elements:

p Give assurance to the public – including

local communities where

new facilities (not just nuclear, but

all other types of facilities) are to

be developed – that funds for

future decommissioning will be

adequate and safe. Develop a

system to ringfence the cost and

secure the funding for the future

liabilities to protect against negligent,

or insolvent custodians of

future legacy issues.

p Give assurance to investors in new

energy facilities that the funds

required and liabilities incurred for

decommissioning can be determined

early in the project development

process, lowering risk and


p Use a market approach, with bestin-

class market participants and

suitably fungible products, to

enable smooth, safe, regulated

industrial and economic division of

labor. This includes the finance

industry (see below).

p Achieve economic optimization:

Energy companies do what they

do best: build and operate a new

energy system. Decommissioning

specialty firms perform safe,

efficient, and timely liability


p Develop the industrial skills to

perform new build on the one

hand and decommissioning on the

other most efficiently – improving

learning curves and economies of

scale. Place risk where it is best


p Make full use of opportunities to

re-use and re-purpose the sites

after decommissioning and tailor

the approach to decommissioning

to maximize the value of postdecommissioning


Financial Leverage

In this world with significant decommissioning

activity, financial leverage

becomes important:

p Learning curve, economies of-scale

and specialized companies reduce

the cost, and cost escalation, of


p Customized financial management

and new financial products

improve the overall financial

performance of decommissioning

companies and projects.

p Decommissioning planning that

factors in the re-use of sites leads to

shorter, more focused decommissioning

and/or to higher value of

the repurposed sites and infrastructure.

p Higher overall efficiency enables

value-enhancing investments in

the process.

The example in Figure 3 gives an

indication how an optimized de commissioning

market can lead to significant

economic benefits to project

owners and to society. This example is

based on just modest improvements

for an individual site – the benefits

would obviously multiply in an

integral national, regional, and global

energy portfolio.

Financial Market


In an analysis of the global decommissioning


Asset Management reached the

following preliminary insights 4 :

“By matching future decommissioning

and remediation liabilities

and avoiding potential cash flow

drawdowns, a pre-funding strategy

offers a number of financial benefits

to com panies. This has been observed

in the case of the nuclear sector, which

is the only one where pre-funding has

been systematic (even if not yet


p Pre-funding improves efficiency of

matching liabilities. Commodity

prices are partially dissociated

from remediation provisioning. …

Separate investments in financial

assets, uncorrelated to commodity

prices offer precious diversification


p It helps mitigate operating expenses

volatility. ....

p It reduces balance sheet, cost of

capital and credit rating pressures.

Remediation obligations create a

long-term debt that affect the

financial standing of an operator.

Pre-funding decommissioning can

have a materially positive impact on


p It offers more exit optionality.

Corporate strategic decisions or

financial pressure may require the

divestment of an asset 5 . … The pool

of potential buyers can (in part) be

impacted by the ability to meet

future remediation expenses.

p It opens up deleveraging opportunities.

Best governance and practices

may not involve leaving the financial

assets and remediation liabilities on

balance sheet but potentially transferring

them to a separate entity.”

This leads BNP PARIBAS Asset

Management to conclude:

“… the challenge facing society

and the global economy is momentous.

Going forward governments

are likely to adopt a more holistic

approach to taxation, expenditure,

and regulation. Furthermore, there

must be developments and support

of new financial instruments and

markets if the climate change

­challenge is to be addressed. …”

An important insight for asset owners

is that a well-established decommissioning

programme that considers

historic, current, and future liability

can enhance the value of their

business, lower operating and

financial risk, and enable the creation

of new financial products and markets.

Paradigm Shift

The end-of-life D&D activities and

requirements for nuclear power plants

are well-understood in principle, but

there are a significant details and

4 Decommissioning As A $3,6 Trillion Challenge, The asset manager for a changing world, BNP PARIBAS Asset Management, May 2020 –


5 Similar benefits apply in case of early decommissioning, driven by political decisions or following technical incidents.

Decommissioning and Waste Management

Circular Economy – Lessons Learned, from and for Nuclear ı Edward Kee and Ruediger Koenig with collaboration by Geoff Bauer and Julien Halfon

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July

| Figure 3

Financial Benefits of Holistic Decommissioning Market (simplified strawman example, with modest assumptions for possible improvements).

issues to address as the industry


The nuclear power industry

provides excellent lessons learned in

decommissioning – both in its shortcomings

as well as in its successes.

As new approaches and learning take

place in the nuclear power industry

decommissioning, these can be

adap ted to improve the entire energy

industry approach to decom missioning.

The paradigm shift needed for a

circular economic approach to

decommissioning consists of two

key elements:

1) To consider and manage plant

closures as project development

activities for new build programmes,

rather than as an end­ of-life issue.

2) To consider and manage funds

to cover back-end liabilities as

independent financial legacy that

generate and secure value for future


Such a paradigm shift promises the

following advantages for the energy


p well-funded decommissioning programmes


will not be an undue

burden for asset owners;

p efficient planning and execution

will enable effective repurposing of


p financial structuring of funds

for decommissioning for future

decom missioning will create

value­ enhancing assets for asset


p the public will be protected against

uncovered back-end costs.

For these benefits to be fully

developed, more pro-active strategic

efforts by industry players in the

energy and financial industries as well

as regulators, other governmental

bodies and political stakeholders will

be needed. The authors of this article

look forward to participating in a

developing community of interested



This article is a thought piece by Edward Kee (USA)

and Ruediger Koenig (EU) ofNuclear Economics

Consulting Group (NECG, www.nuclear-economics.

com). The authors highly appreciate the valuable

professional support and expert inputs from Geoff

Bauer of Mercer Ltd. (www.uk.mercer.com) and

Julien Halfon of BNP PARIBAS Asset Management


Edward Kee

NECG CEO, Founder and

Principal Consultant



Edward Kee is an expert in nuclear economics.

Mr. Kee provides advice to governments, investors,

regulators, regulated and unregulated electricity

companies, nuclear companies, and other parties.

Ruediger Koenig

Interim Manager and

Executive Advisor,

NECG Affiliated



Rudy Koenig supports market players in the clean

energy industrial value chain, structuring complex

business transactions in large capital projects and

managing lean business operations. He has held

executive responsibilities for suppliers in the nuclear

front- and back-end and has helped a large utility

investor develop and ultimately sell several nuclear

new build projects.


6 For example, e.g. see our Report to the EU Commission: https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/3a94a52a-ec36-11e9-9c4e-01aa75ed71a1/

language-en?WT.mc_id=Searchresult&WT.ria_c=37085&WT.ria_f=3608&WT.ria_ev=search and this related report by the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA):


Decommissioning and Waste Management

Circular Economy – Lessons Learned, from and for Nuclear ı Edward Kee and Ruediger Koenig with collaboration by Geoff Bauer and Julien Halfon

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July


Waste-informed Decommissioning

in the USA, UK and Slovakia

Antonio Guida

Introduction Knowledge and experience is vital in nuclear decommissioning. But because many projects and tasks

are first-of-a-kind endeavours, they are never enough. The key to success is to draw on technical knowledge and adapt

learning from previous projects to develop the right concepts and equipment to meet new challenges. Jacobs – the

global technology-forward solutions company – draws on decommissioning experience from the world’s most

challenging nuclear sites including Chernobyl, Fukushima, Savannah River, and Sellafield. It has developed a

waste-informed decommissioning approach which is the key to safer, faster and cheaper restoration of nuclear sites.

Waste is an end-product of any

decommissioning project. The way in

which waste is managed throughout

the project has a huge influence on

the benefit that decommissioning

achieves. The key to cost-effectiveness

is to accelerate the programme to

reduce lifetime costs while ensuring

regulatory compliance and safety.

This requires prompt treatment, safe

handling, and efficient minimisation

of the final volumes of waste destined

for long-term storage.

Case studies from the U.S.A., U.K.

and Europe show how waste-informed

decommissioning leads to better

outcomes both environmentally and


Waste management proves

vital in pioneering reactor

dismantling project

Knowledge and experience is vital

in nuclear decommissioning. But

because many projects and tasks are

first-of-a-kind endeavours, they are

never enough. The key to success is to

draw on technical knowledge and

adapt learning from previous projects

to develop the right concepts and

equipment to meet new challenges.

This is what Jacobs is doing in

Slovakia on a pioneering project

to clean up the country’s nuclear


JAVYS, the nation’s decommissioning

company, tasked a consortium

of Westinghouse Electric Company

and VUJE with the first ever dismantling

of a VVER-440 nuclear

reactor, at the Jaslovské Bohunice V1

nuclear power plant.

The consortium reached a key

milestone in June 2020 when it safely

removed the Unit 1 reactor pressure

vessel (RPV). Jacobs designed and

manufactured remotely operated

equipment to carry out underwater

handling, baskets to hold fragments of

the RPV components, and equipment

for radiological characterization.

Using the main 250 tonne crane in

the reactor hall, the RPV was placed

on a prepared platform in a specially

built pool, so that segmentation work

could be carried out by Westinghouse.

JAVYS described this as “a significant

milestone” in the decommissioning

process, adding: “One of

the main tasks of the project is the

dismantling and fragmentation of

RPVs and internal parts of reactors,

whose radioactivity represents almost

100 % of the total radioactivity of

the power plant.

“Before dismantling activities

began, the project team, comprising

Westinghouse, VUJE and Jacobs,

conducted extensive tag-out and lockout

activities, asbestos removal, radiological

characterization, sampling and

decontamination to ensure that operations

could be conducted as safely as

possible. Removal of the RPV was

preceded by months of preparations,

technical negotiations, design, production

of handling equipment and

approval of the necessary documentation

by supervisory authorities.”

The RPV removal was performed

with additional health and safety

regulations in place to prevent the

spread of COVID-19.

In awarding the contract, JAVYS

required bidders to have proven

decontamination, dismantling and

waste packaging expertise, and to be

innovative in planning and meeting a

very tight schedule, while meeting the

highest safety standards.

The overall project includes:

studies and procedures; designing and

manufacturing new tools and equipment;

site preparation; and decontamination,

dismantling, segmentation,

packaging and management

of waste arising from 9,500 tonnes

of contaminated and activated components.

These components include the

primary circuits (steam generators,

main circulation pumps, main

insulation valves, pressurizers, bubble

tanks and primary piping), reactor

vessel internals, reactor vessels,

auxiliary equipment, plant systems

and other elements such as the

annular water tank. They also include

activated operational waste, which is

stored in a dedicated location.

Jacobs’ scope of work includes

complete and integrated waste

management of the project including

delivery of containers and radiological

measuring equipment, regulatory

and engineering support.

The consortium built two new

pools where the segmentation of

highly radioactive waste can be

carried out under a depth of water

necessary to shield workers from


Each pool is equipped with two

gantry cranes and two working

bridges, on which four crews of

operators can work simultaneously.

The operators cut and package components

remotely with cutting tool

manipulation and handling systems.

They can observe the work using

underwater cameras from which live

images are projected onto screens on

the working bridges.

The fragments are characterized

before being placed into the prepared

baskets, which were designed and

delivered by Jacobs, and then lifted

from the bottom of the pool to the

final destination. The baskets, based

on the radiological status of the

content, are placed in concrete containers

with additional external

shielding, which has also been

designed and delivered by Jacobs.

The turbine building was adapted

and reclassified as a dry cutting

workshop so that it could be used

to segment six steam generators

from each unit. The approach for

wet and dry cutting meets the

compressed schedule while satisfying

all safety and regulatory requirements.

Decommissioning and Waste Management

Waste-informed Decommissioning in the USA, UK and Slovakia ı Antonio Guida

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July

| Figure 1

Reactor pressure vessel awaiting segmen tation

in the dismantling pool at Bohunice NPP.

Helena Mrázová, Jacobs Project

Manager, shares: “We have achieved a

very significant milestone, thanks to

the hard and effective work of all the

team members. I am really glad to

have the opportunity to work with

such professionals and see the results

of their hard work.

“COVID-19 interrupted our operations

in March and early April 2020,

when we introduced restrictions to

safeguard the project team. We did

this successfully and returned to site

in early April, with strict measures

in place to ensure that everyone

remained safe.”

Marek Mečiar, Jacobs Business

Unit Director, says: “The professional

decommissioning skills and high level

of safety culture of the Jacobs team

have impressed the nuclear regulator’s

representatives and all the

organizations we are working with.”

The Jacobs team at Bohunice is

able to reach back to specialists at the

company’s suite of laboratories in

Trnava, which has extensive experience

of developing analysis methods

and decontamination technologies

for surface treatment, including

electrochemical sampling and scanning

electron microscopy.

Bohunice’s two Soviet-designed

VVER-440 V-230 reactors were connected

to the grid in 1978 and 1980

and operated until they were shut

down in 2006 and 2008.

Decommissioning of Bohunice V1

NPP, led by JAVYS, is co-financed by

the European Union through the

Bohunice International Decommissioning

Support Fund administered by

the European Bank for Reconstruction

and Development (EBRD).

| Figure 2

Remotely operated equipment takes samples from the reactor vessel at Bohunice NPP.

Creating new opportunities

on a contaminated site

Almost 25 years ago, when the former

Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant

sat shuttered with dilapidated and

contaminated buildings, its future as

an economic and recreational hub was

hard to imagine.

Now, with clean up complete, the

transformation of the East Tennessee

Technology Park (ETTP) has become a


Representatives of the federal and

state governments and community

leaders met in Oak Ridge, Tennessee

in October 2020 to celebrate the

historic first-ever removal of a former

uranium enrichment complex.

Thanks to this project, Jacobs has

gained extremely valuable knowledge

of how nuclear sites can be remediated

for alternative use.

The client, Oak Ridge Office of

Environmental Management (OREM)

and its contractor UCOR, made up of

URS (now AECOM) and CH2M Oak

Ridge (which was acquired by Jacobs

in 2017), have not only removed a vast

complex of contaminated facilities,

they have also made 900 hectares of

land available for economic development

and recreation.

This effort, which began in the

early 2000s, involved safely removing

more than 500 deteriorated and

contaminated buildings big enough to

cover 225 football fields. ETTP was

originally known as the K-25 Site,

which was built in secrecy in the 1940s

as part of the Manhattan Project to

provide enriched uranium for the

world’s first atomic weapon. After the

war, the site, renamed the Oak Ridge

Gaseous Diffusion Plant, expanded

and new buildings were constructed

to produce enriched uranium for

defense and commercial purposes

and later to explore new enrichment


It provided fuel to the first nuclear

submarine, the U.S.S. Nautilus, and

the first U.S. nuclear power plant

in Shippingport, Pennsylvania. Operations

continued until the mid-1980s,

and the site was shut down permanently

in 1987.

The site’s closure left behind

hundreds of facilities with highly

contaminated equipment and piping

that had to be carefully addressed

and removed. Among those were

five massive enrichment buildings,

including the mile-long K-25 Building,

which was the largest building in the

world when it was constructed. UCOR

completed the transformation work

four years ahead of schedule, saving

taxpayers $80 million in estimated

cleanup costs and $500 million

in environmental liabilities. In

partnership with OREM, UCOR has

transformed the site into a multiuse

industrial park that is providing

new economic opportunities for

the community. So far, nearly

530 hectares of government land

have been transferred for new economic

development, and more than

1,200 hectares have been placed in a

conservation easement for recreational

use. Another 40 hectares

has been designated for historic

preser vation to share the site’s rich


A ‘boring’ job,

but someone has to do it

In the U.K., Jacobs is the largest

supplier of professional services to

the U.K. Geological Disposal Facility

(GDF) programme, which has recently

stepped up a gear in its search for a

site to host the country’s high-level

nuclear waste inventory.


Decommissioning and Waste Management

Waste-informed Decommissioning in the USA, UK and Slovakia ı Antonio Guida

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July


| Figure 3

Oak Ridge Site.

The company’s dedicated Waste

Management and Disposal team is

also a leading provider of spent fuel

and nuclear materials services to

Radioactive Waste Management Ltd

(RWM) and LLW Repository Ltd, both

subsidiaries of the Nuclear Decommissioning

Authority (NDA) with leading

roles in the country’s management of

radioactive material of all kinds.

Jacobs also manages multiple laboratory

and irradiation testing facilities

and routinely supports U.K. and overseas

waste management programmes

including in Switzerland, Belgium,

Sweden, Finland and Japan.

The company’s radioactive waste

management specialists, scientists,

engineers and geologists are leading a

£5 million research project for RWM

to research, design and build a stateof-the-art

‘Downhole Placement

System’ (DPS) that will be lowered

from a 25-metre rig to seal boreholes

at depth.

This is part of the research and

development programme to support

construction of a safe and secure GDF.

The DPS has been designed to seal

boreholes in any of the geological

settings where a GDF could safely

be located: higher-strength rock

types, lower-strength sedimentary,

and evaporite rocks.

The first full-scale demonstration

project took place in Oxfordshire, at an

NDA-owned site managed by Magnox,

where there are existing boreholes up

to 400 metres deep, originally drilled

in the 1980s. The team is currently

investi gating the feasibility of the next

full-scale demonstration in a different

rock environment and with deeper


Innovation accelerates

treatment of Cold War-era


Many nuclear decommissioning sites

have large quantities of liquid or

quasi­ liquid radioactive waste which

must be treated and immobilized to

prevent it from leaching into and

polluting water courses.

An innovative form of radiological

waste-treatment has produced

remarkable results at the Savannah

River Site (SRS) in South Carolina.

Since operations began in early 2019,

the Tank Closure Cesium Removal

(TCCR) demonstration project has

safety removed cesium from nearly

1.13 million litres of Cold War-era

liquid waste, helping to accelerate

waste treatment and the ultimate

cleaning and operational closure of

waste tanks at SRS.

Savannah River Remediation

(SRR) is the liquid waste contractor

for the U.S. Department of Energy

(DOE) at SRS and the operator of

TCCR. SRR is an Amentum-led

partnership that includes Jacobs,

Bechtel National, and BWX Technologies


TCCR is an at-tank treatment

process, complementing other site

treatment facilities. By keeping the

process outside the waste tank, TCCR

is both modular and mobile. Because

TCCR is independent of other liquid

waste facilities, it can operate

when other areas of the process are

experiencing outages.

TCCR performs an ion exchange

process utilizing crystalline sili cotitanate

(CST) inside multiple resin

columns. As liquid waste flows

through the columns, the CST targets

and adsorbs Cesium-137 and other

radionuclides, removing them from

the waste solution. SRR engineers

determined that the columns could be

self-shielded inside the TCCR unit

itself, resulting in a lower cost process

while maintaining its efficiency and


TCCR has proven its ability to

perform the task as expected. Each

completed batch has demonstrated

the effectiveness of the TCCR design,

including its filtration system and

control program.

SRR developed a strategy to

continue to supply the next phase of

TCCR with batches from Tank 9. The

implementation included the installation

of safety systems to monitor the

interior status of the tank, ventilation

system improvements, water addition

points, mixing jets, and a transfer

pump to move the salt solution to the

TCCR feed tank. Tank 9 and the infrastructure

upgrades will be ready to

support the new TCCR mission in

early 2021.

Both the TCCR project and the Tank

9 Salt Dissolution project have involved

teams from across SRR, including SRR

Construction. Installation and setup of

the TCCR module and the Tank 9 upgrades

required the efforts of numerous

construction employees, as they safely

contributed to the 32.7 million hours

the group has worked since their last

days-away case.

TCCR’s achievements are built on

the research and development done

by the DOE’s Office of Environmental

Management and the Savannah

River National Laboratory, as well as

experience drawn from commercial

nuclear plant decontamination and

the Fukushima Daiichi cleanup.

87 billion litres of groundwater

treated at Hanford

At the Hanford site in Washington

State, 2020 marked the sixth consecutive

year that workers have

treated more than 2 billion gallons of

groundwater to protect the Columbia

River by removing contamination left

behind by past operations to produce

plutonium for the U.S. nuclear

weapons program.

The Jacobs-led CH2M HILL Plateau

Remediation Company (CHPRC) and

the U.S. Department of Energy’s

Environmental Management Richland

Operations Office have treated an average

of 2.4 billion gallons of groundwater

a year for the past five years.

Hanford workers operate six

treatment systems to remove radioactive

and chemical contaminants

from groundwater along the Columbia

River and an area near the center of

the Hanford Site called the Central

Plateau. This is where massive

chemical processing facilities separated

plutonium from fission products

from the 1940s through the 1980s and

discharged billions of gallons of

contaminated liquids to soil disposal


The volume of contaminated

groundwater from Hanford’s plutonium

production mission hasn’t been

the only challenge. In 2020, the

COVID-19 pandemic added a further

complication by limiting the number

of personnel who can work at the site.

Fortunately, the advanced technologies

now in use made it possible

for groundwater treatment to continue

largely uninterrupted. Operations

managers safely monitor the

systems remotely – meeting social

distancing requirements while

ensuring the plants continue to

operate efficiently during the site’s

phased remobilization of operations.

“The reliability of Hanford’s

treatment systems and the experience

Decommissioning and Waste Management

Waste-informed Decommissioning in the USA, UK and Slovakia ı Antonio Guida

Delivering solutions

for the global

nuclear industry

Find out more at www.jacobs.com

or follow us on @JacobsConnects

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July



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ISSN 1431-5254

of our team has been instrumental in our ability to consistently

meet – and typically exceed – our annual treatment

goals,” said Bill Barrett, Vice President of CHPRC’s

soil and groundwater remediation project. “Protecting the

Columbia River is the dominant force behind our ongoing

groundwater treatment efforts. Over the past decade, we

have seen a significant reduction in the areas of contamination

near the river.”

Hanford has treated more than 87 billion litres of

groundwater and removed nearly 600 tonnes of contaminants

since the first groundwater facilities began operating

in the mid-1990s. The treatment systems have removed

most of the chromium contamination along the Columbia

River and hundreds of tons of nitrates on the Central

Plateau, as well as other contaminants of concern such as

carbon tetrachloride, uranium, and technetium-99.

SIAL® makes waste encapsulation better

for the environment

Radioactive waste often has to be encapsulated before it

goes into long-term storage. Usually, it is placed in a

container such as a steel drum which is then filled with


Now, however, geopolymer encapsulation is coming to

be seen as a lower cost and more environmentally friendly


SIAL® technology, developed by Jacobs, allows on-site,

room temperature conditioning of various standard and

problematic radioactive waste streams including resins,

sludge, liquid or crystalline borates, oils, other organic

liquids, concentrates, and ashes.

To date, SIAL® has been used successfully to immobilize

thousands of tonnes of waste from nuclear power plants in

Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

The key benefits of SIAL® matrix technology include:

p The modular equipment used to deploy SIAL® is

flexible, tailor- made and versatile. It can be taken to

where the waste is located, enabling on-site operations

and on-site waste con ditioning and storage, avoiding

any need for costly off-site treatment facilities;

p Low energy, environmentally friendly, non-explosive

and non- flammable;

p The waste loading is far higher than can be obtained

using a traditional cement matrix. This can reduce the

overall volume of the end product making it less

expensive to store;

p Greater mechanical strength and lower leachability

(the release of radionuclides through contact with

water) than cement;

p Carbon emissions associated with the production of a

geopolymer encapsulants are ten times lower than with

cement encapsulants. Cement also requires a significant

amount of natural resources, such as limestone and

fossil fuels.

The SIAL® matrix is a blend of inorganic compounds –

mainly an alkaline solution and alumino silicates – which

are stirred directly into the waste to create a solid product.

This is done at the point of retrieval making it an efficient

way to treat liquid waste before transportation, storage

and final disposal.

With only a small equipment footprint, the system is

suitable for deployment close to the waste source and

within site constraints.

Jacobs has a three-step approach to implementing

the SIAL® process: characterisation, pre-treatment and

solidification. This is modified according to the composition

of the waste material.

Decommissioning and Waste Management

Waste-informed Decommissioning in the USA, UK and Slovakia ı Antonio Guida

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July

The SIAL® process is tested on real

samples of each individual waste

stream so that an appropriate mixture

of aluminosilicates and other inorganic

compounds can be defined.

International interest in the

technology is growing. Fuji Electric

is conducting detailed analysis of

problematic waste streams with a

view to securing approval, licensing

and application of SIAL® technology

in Japan. Taiwan’s Institute of Nuclear

Energy Research is carrying out tests

into its use with Greater-Than-Class C

(GTCC) low-level radioactive waste

from nuclear power plants.

Jacobs is currently seeking endorsement

to enable the use of SIAL®

technology to store and dispose of

higher activity waste in the U.K. and is

applying its wider geopolymer

encapsulation knowledge on a major

waste retrieval and treatment project

with CEA Marcoule in France.

Conclusions and

lessons learned

Experience from the projects outlined

above has enabled Jacobs to draw

many important lessons about the

management of nuclear decommissioning

projects. Some of these are

summarised below.

p Enhanced understanding of the

various waste streams through

early and robust characterisation,

as well as identification of

its provenance, is key to a

waste­informed decommissioning

approach. This requires a comprehensive

suite of waste characterisation

tools and the ability to

tailor these techniques to individual

projects and site regulatory

requirements. Jacobs uses intrusive

sampling operations, fingerprint

derivation and in-situ

measurements from a range of

materials, including reactor bioshields,

concrete, metals, sludges,

fuel element debris and ion

exchange resins. To provide fullrange

sample analysis, Jacobs

operates one of the largest radiochemistry

laboratories in the U.K.

ANSWERS®, Jacobs’ proprietary

software suite for reactor physics,

radiation shielding, dosimetry

and nuclear criticality, is key to

modelling the performance of

radioactive materials in order

to inform decommissioning strategy.

p Radioactive waste management

processes need to be aligned to

the waste hierarchy so that the

option to divert waste from

dispo sal is available where practicable.

Effective application of the

waste hierarchy at the UK’s Low

Level Waste Repository has

extended the life of the facility by

100 years and saved the taxpayer

£2 billion.

p Data quality objectives provide a

systematic planning approach

to establish project acceptance

criteria and create a detailed

sample and analysis plan. This

determines the quality and quantity

of data required, meeting

regulatory requirements.

p An innovative approach to radiological

characterisation techniques

can improve safety and ensure a

quicker results turnaround. To

monitor radiation in storage ponds

at Sellafield, Jacobs has developed

a specially adapted remotely

operated vehicle (ROVs) and

underwater in-situ gamma spectroscopy

to detect leaking radioactive

sources. A submersible ROV

collects samples of water before

docking at a custom-built monitoring

station floating at the side

of the pond, where the sample is

analysed by a gamma radiation


Where areas are inaccessible due

to safety constraints e.g. height

or dose exposure, Jacobs uses

unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)

to survey both external and internal

areas through an exclusivity

agreement with Texo Drone Survey

& Inspection Ltd (Texo DSI) for the

UK Nuclear sector.

p A detailed inventory leads to

reduced lifecycle costs for radioactive

and controlled waste management

and decommis sioning as

a whole and gives stakeholders

confidence that waste management

decisions are based on realistic

data. Data management is required

at every stage, using geographic

information systems (GIS)

to analyse and manage the data,

which can be shared for collaboration

through maps and apps. This

allows the decommissioning programme

to plan, adapt and maintain

safe operations. Jacobs has

been supporting Sellafield since

2013 in developing an intranetbased

GIS platform with bespoke

mapping tools to provide access to

key business datasets and allow

informed decisions on spatial data

to be made in an effective and

time-efficient way.

p Optimisation of each step in

the decommissioning process will

avoid repetition, which can

generate excessive quantities of

secondary waste. Secondary

wastes can often be reduced to

3-5 % of the mass of the primary


p Pre-treatment decontamination

processes, both on-site and off-site,

are a key tool in waste volume

reduction. These include:

p Surface decontamination by

intrusive shot blasting or simple

manual wiping;

p Chemical decontamination e.g.

electro-chemical baths and

handheld pads to decontaminate

vessels and circuits;

p Scabbling, either manually or

using remotely-operated equipment,

to remove contaminated

material from surfaces;

p Strippable coatings used to

tie down contamination onto


p Size or volume reduction of

irregular shaped items to maximise

packaging efficiencies within

waste containers. This is usually

achieved using cutting, incineration,

smelting and compaction.


Antonio Guida

Radioactive Waste

Management and

Disposal Director




Antonio Guida is Radioactive Waste Management and

Disposal Director at Jacobs. Based in the U.K., he is

responsible for four departments, three laboratory and

testing facilities, and twelve teams of radioactive

waste consultants, chemists, experimentalists, radiation

materials scientists, corrosion scientists, radwaste

disposal specialists, mathematical modellers, safety

case engineers, and project managers. A radioactive

waste management specialist, Antonio has led

numerous high-profile programmes for U.K. and international

clients. Previous experience also includes

formal specialist facilitation, portfolio/framework

management, and international business development.

He has a PhD in positron imaging, is a chartered

engineer and has an MBA.


Decommissioning and Waste Management

Waste-informed Decommissioning in the USA, UK and Slovakia ı Antonio Guida

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July


TRIPLE C Waste Container for Increased

Long-term Safety of HHGW Disposal

in Salt, Clay and Crystalline

Jürgen Knorr and Albert Kerber

Introduction Nuclear facilities for the utilization and handling of nuclear materials have to fulfill general safety

goals. With varying importance and priorities the same five main safety goals apply for safety considerations of all

nuclear facilities.


(prevention of release of nuclear

material in biosphere)


(prevention of irra diation with an



(prevention of criti cality)


(prevention of destruc tion, misuse,

theft, uninten tional intrusion…)


(prevention of overheating)

| Figure 1

Stationary phases (SP) and transition phases (TP) in HHGW history.

| Figure 2

HHGW repository – a dynamic nonlinear system.

Depending on the facility type

and intended use a tailored set of

appropriate safety measures has to be

foreseen to guarantee the fulfillment

of safety goals in all phases of operation

and over the whole lifecycle of the


The widespread utilization of fissile

materials in nuclear reactors (fuel

elements) generates unavoid ably large

amounts of materials with a high

hazard potential (high radio active,

partly with very long half-lifes;

chemotoxic: heavy metals like plutonium;

fissile: potential for uncontrolled

chain reaction or misuse in nuclear explosives,

heat generation; extremely

high concentrations).

Typical steps in the history of

fuel elements from utilization in the

reactor till the final disposal are shown

in Figure 1 [2],[3].

During each stationary phase (SP)

or temporary phase (TP) the fulfillment

of the five safety goals must be

guaranteed by a set of appropriate

measures, tailored to the special conditions

and requirements of the phase.

The priority ranking of the safety

goals may change from phase to


Final repository

It is acknowledged worldwide that

HHGW must be safely isolated from

the biosphere for a time period of

1 Mio years.

Deep geological repositories like

mines or deep boreholes are considered

as best solutions to isolate

the waste permanently and prevent

inadvertent human intrusion. But a

deep geological repository for HHGW

is a challenging new type of a nuclear


German disposal concepts foresee

deep geological disposal (mine) with

a combination of geological barriers

and engineered barriers (EBS).

Figure 2 shows the general scheme.

After closure, the repository has to

fulfill extreme safety requirements for

a long time in a predicted manner

without further human interventions.

The final repository is a dynamic

nonlinear system. For such a complex

system it will difficult – if not hopeless

– to find the appropriate equations

system and then find precise

solutions to determine the leak rate

L(t) as a special OUTPUT function.

Nevertheless, some general properties

can be formulated which lead to some

useful conclusions for the design of

the repository as a system and its

Decommissioning and Waste Management

TRIPLE C Waste Container for Increased Long-term Safety of HHGW Disposal in Salt, Clay and Crystalline ı Jürgen Knorr and Albert Kerber

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July

| Figure 3

Time scales and long-term retention capability of waste containers:

Note: Even 100.000 years are only 10 % of the nominal repository lifecycle.

components, especially the waste


The system behavior is somewhat

predictable, if the inner status remains

near a steady state and the deviations

from the starting FEP‘s conditions and

of the system variables are small over

time. Due to the system dependence

of the initial conditions, it is a fundamental

requirement for the repository

design, that the initial conditions

( inner and outer FEP‘s, e.g. functionality

of barrier system, waste

distribution, subcriticality) will not

change for as long as possible.

The early loss of retention capability

of the waste package has the

consequence that hazardous materials

are released from their original

location and are permitted to lead a

vagabond life. Principally, self-organization

and chaotic behavior of the

system become possible. In the worst

case, conditions for a self-sustaining

chain reaction (criticality) are formed

with severe consequences for the

status of the whole repository and the

release of hazardous material in the


The effective lifespan of the repository

is adjusted to the half-lifes of the

long-living radionuclides. Therefore,

the time constants of the engineered

barrier system (EBS: retention capability

of waste container and geotechnical

barriers) should be comparable

and fit in this time scale too.

It is planned in many countries to

use metallic containers as engineered

barriers together with a surrounding

layer of bentonite. Sweden and

Finland want to apply copper canisters

(KBS-3), Germany spheroidal

graphite iron (Pollux) and the United

States stainless steel for example. The

Swedish concept of SKB has very often

been cited as reference concept, but

came under harsh criticism by the

decision of the Swedish Environmental

Court at the beginning of 2018 [4]

and has finally been postponed by

10 years. It is generally known that

all metals exhibit a relatively poor

corrosion resistance under disposal

conditions, especially if very long time

periods are considered [5], [6], [7].

(Figure 3) For good reasons metallic

waste container play therefore only a

secondary role in existing safety

concepts for repositories planned in

different types of host rock (salt, clay,


But new developments in hightech

ceramics provide a sound

scientific- technical basis for the

industrial production of ceramic

waste containers. But most important,

excellent material properties justify

the expectance of long-term retention

capability [8].

This paper describes why and how

silicon carbide (SSiC) waste container

can play a decisive role for long-term

safety by providing a corrosionresistant

initial barrier, diversity and

redundancy in all host rock disposal



for HHGW repository

The concept of defense-in-depth is

a fundamental element of safety

philosophy for nuclear and nonnuclear

complex systems, where ultrahigh

reliability has to be achieved.

Defense-in-depth is not a goal, but a

tool that is used for the approach to

design and operate a nuclear facility

that prevents and mitigates accidents

with release of radiation or hazardous

materials. The key is creating multiple

independent and redundant levels

of defense to compensate potential

failures in designing and manufacturing

as well as accidents during

lifecycle so that no single level, no

matter how robust, is exclusively

relied upon [9].

Basic defense-in-depth features

concerning waste can be found in the

proposed strategy for development of

regulations governing disposal of high

radioactive waste in the proposed

repository at Yucca Mountain [10].

The development of NRC regulations

for geologic disposal represented a

unique application of the defense-indepth

philosophy to a first-of-a-kind

type of facility. The paper underlines

the difference between a geologic

repository and an operating facility

with active safety systems and the

potential for active control and intervention.

The safety of a closed system

over long timeframes is best evaluated

through consideration of the relative

likelihood of threats to its integrity

and performance. Also it is relatively

easy to identify multiple diverse

barriers that comprise the engineered

and geologic systems. The performance

of any of this systems and their

respective subsystems cannot be

considered truly independent or

totally redundant.

The general defense-in-depth

frame work (DiD) for a repository is

shown in Figure 4.

The physical barriers (essential

barriers B [1], relevant material

zones Z) placed between waste and

biosphere form a hierarchy of different

Levels of Defense in a successive or

consecutive manner. If one level fails,

the next level is meant to alleviate the

failure of the previous level and so on,

so that all the levels must fail before

significant consequences will occur

| Figure 4

General defense-in-depth framework for a repository.

MATRIOSHKA-Principle: 4π geometry of inner shells [3]


Decommissioning and Waste Management

TRIPLE C Waste Container for Increased Long-term Safety of HHGW Disposal in Salt, Clay and Crystalline ı Jürgen Knorr and Albert Kerber

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July


| Table 1

Hierarchy of Levels of Defense, barriers B and zones Z to obtain safety goals;

Not essential long-term safety contributions from existing waste (Level 0).

(Table 1). In reviewing the international

literature there are only

general statements with no specific

criteria for determining the adequacy

of defense-in-depth in waste disposal.

But control of single failures alone

requires the existence of a redundant

system (combination of two geological

barriers or a geological barrier

together with EBS). Furthermore, the

Fail-safe-principle can be fulfilled only

by emplacement host rocks with

self-acting closure of cracks and rifts

by plastic flow (preferably salt,

eventually clay) or the combination of

bentonite and crystalline.

| Table 2

Criteria for the overall performance of a final repository [1].

Geotechnical barriers (backfill,

closure and sealing of tunnels and

shafts) are not included in the scheme.

They are important components of the

whole repository concept, but after all

only repair measures of the host rock

resp. of the overlaying rock and are

therefore not considered as autonomous

barriers. Nevertheless many

authors sum up these pseudo-barriers

equally together with the geological

and engineered barriers to pretend

larger safety marges concerning

redun dancy and diversity

Principles are developed to help

guide implementation of defense­ indepth

in waste disposal. Generally,

defense-in-depth philosophy consists

of four principles [11]:

p prevent accident from starting

(initiation, prevention)

p stop accident at early stages before

they progress to unacceptable

consequences (intervention)

p provide for mitigating the release

of the hazard vector (mitigation)

p provide sufficient instrumentation

to diagnose.

A repository after closure is a totally

passive system (no operation, no

maintenance, no surveillance, no

monitoring, no diagnosis). In this case

not all principles apply to appropriate

defense-in-depth measures. With the

increasing loss of information on the

site and the inner status (lack of

diagnosis) of the repository active

human measures (intervention) to

stop accidents by retrieval or recovery

of waste containers are limited to a

very short period (~ 500 years [1]).

This underlines the necessity to

design the repository with sufficient

passive measures for long-term


Practically all existing concepts to

achieve the safety goals rely only on

the choice of an appropriate host rock

and site. But deeper insight in FEP‘s

of geological sites changed the perception

of the relative importance

between different levels of defense.

To some extent this new position

found its reflection in the German

“StandAG” [12].

Safety requirements

according to the

new German regulations

The regulations on safety requirements

for final deposition of high

radioactive waste (EndlSiAnV) [1] are

part of the new legal provisions which

represent the legal base in Germany

for the layout and the evaluation of

long-term safety. A summary is given

in Table 2.

With this specification of criteria,

the frame has been established for

questioning the suitability of existing

concepts or for developing targeted

concepts being in the phase of

planning and realization already.

Essential barriers are those which

mainly ensure the safe enclosure of

radionuclides. Essential barriers may

be one or some effective rock regions

or, if no such effective rock region can

be identified, technical and geotechnical

barriers. In extreme case,

one essential barrier stands for the

overall performance of the whole


The repository as a system fails

(system failure, accident), if the

amount of released radionuclides

leads to values, which exceed the

maximal permissible radiation dose or

the maximal tolerable concentrations

of toxic materials in air, water and


In a simplified manner the

relationships between the inventory,

leak rate and the released hazardous

material can be written as follows.

The total inventory mass M(t) of

radioactive nuclei is given by

M(t) = S m i (t) with i = 1…n (nuclide

vector). At closure of repository (t=0)

the total inventory is M(0) = M 0 .

Provided, M(t) is distributed evenly

on N container, than the inventory of

one container is M C (t) = M(t)/N.

The leakrate L(t) in Figure 2 is

given by L(t) = dM rel (t)/dt with

dM rel (t) the released mass of

hazardous material from the repository

in biosphere in time interval dt.

Lets assume, that the source

term Q(t) of one container is

Q(t) = dM C (t)/dt and all N container

should have the same source term.

Decommissioning and Waste Management

TRIPLE C Waste Container for Increased Long-term Safety of HHGW Disposal in Salt, Clay and Crystalline ı Jürgen Knorr and Albert Kerber

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July

Furthermore, the permeability of all geological barriers P(t, x,y,z) is set

P = const. for all nuclides over the lifecycle of repository and over the total

volume of the emplacement rock, than


Equ. (1) provides a direct relationship

between M rel (t) of the whole repository

and and the source term Q(t) of

a container. The ultimate goal is

M rel = 0 over 1 Mio years respectively

M rel < 10 -4 M 0 , taking the values from

Table 2.

People expect a nuclear facility

to function properly – especially a

HHGW repository. But they do fail as

the example of Asse II has shown.

Different failure types influence the

safety and reliability of a repository.

The following basic ideas for failure

assessment follow very close to the

definitions and results of the paper of

JONES [13].

Failures can be classified as random

or systematic. Random failures of

technical systems (e.g. EBS) are

caused by time and use and occur

independently. Non-random (systematic)

failures occur because of a

poor specification or design of a

system or an unexpected interaction

with the system‘s environment or

external stress. Systematic failures

have identifiable causes and familiar

sources. They are understandable and

explainable. Systematic failures can

effect all identical components of a

system (e.g. waste container) so the

systematic failures are the potential

common cause failures.

Achieving the deep geological

repository as a reliable and safe total

system, the first step is to select a highly

reliable subsystem (e.g. first geolo gical

barrier = emplacement rock, in

German terminology: einschlußwirksamer

Gebirgsbereich ewG). But often

the best possible subsystem at Level 2

of Defense (available rock type and site

on territory) has failure rates, that are

too high. Than the necessary step is to

provide redundant subsystems either

on Level 3 (e.g. 2. geological barrier)

and/or on Level 1 (EBS, waste container).

If an approriate site with

conditions that form a set of redundant

geological barriers cannot be found

on the territory of a country, then the

safety goals of the system must be

realized by appropriate measures on

Level 1 (waste container).

With metallic waste containers it

seems to be very difficult – almost

impossible – to demonstrate how

long-term retention can be achieved.

For decades repository concepts

focused therefore their safety considerations

on Level 2 only, but with

unsatisfactory results.

So the time has come to re-consider

the contribution of innovative

waste container to the long-term


Safety measures

on Level 1

The existing HHGW (the waste

material itself and the metallic

cladding of spent fuel elements and

canned vitrified waste from reprocessing)

do not provide a long-term

retention barrier on Level 0, not until

innovative ceramic-encapsulated fuel

| Table 3

Selection criteria for SiC as c ontainer material.

elements (accident-tolerant fuel ATF,

disposal-preconditioned DPF) will fill

this gap in the future. So realistic

measures for ISOLATION start on

Level 1. New developments in hightech

ceramics provide a sound

scientific- technical basis for the

industrial production of ceramic leakproof

waste container [14].


The central part of a TRIPLE C waste

container is a silicon carbide (SiC)

container. For several reasons the

special type SSiC (pressure less

sintered silicon carbide) has been


The choice of SiC as container

material is based on different criteria

which are listed in the Table 3. An

important impetus came from the

former activities in Germany concerning

the HTR reactor and the

encapsulation of the fuel, so-called


Decommissioning and Waste Management

TRIPLE C Waste Container for Increased Long-term Safety of HHGW Disposal in Salt, Clay and Crystalline ı Jürgen Knorr and Albert Kerber

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July


| Figure 5

SSiC container (monolythic or segmented) for all waste forms with laser-engraved identification code

and Safeguards seal [14].

TRISO particles, in a very thin shell of

SiC [15], [16] with a thickness of

30 µm.

SiC as a chemical compound was

detected in stellar matter, meaning,

that it is extremely stable, but it rarely

exists on earth as natural mineral.

Fortunately SiC can be synthesized in

any required quantity from the

abundantly available raw materials

sand (SiO 2 ) and coke (C) by applying

electrical energy.

The corrosion resistance of SSiC

against acids and bases justifies

research and development to make

this material available for the

encapsulation of HHGW. Even though

today still a front-edge technology,

SSiC container can be manufactured

for all existing waste forms. (Figure 5,

Table 4)[14].

A cylindrical container is the basic

geometry. Diameter D, height H and

wall thickness d are adjusted to the

waste geometry. The inside surface is

coated by a glassy carbon layer

( so-called SIAMANT compound).

Depending on the length of fuel

elements, the container bodies are

monolithic or segmented.

For a long time, the hermetic

closing of the container as well as the

bonding of segments for forming large

container bodies was considered as

the fundamental drawback for the

application of SSiC container. But

with the native bonding technology

Rapid Sinter Bonding (RSB) [17] a

quick and reliable process for a

strong and gas tight seam has been

developed. By laser engraving each

container gets a permanent identification

code and a Safeguards seal

(making the container a “batch” in

Safeguard’s terminology).

Taking into account the excellent

corrosion resistance of SSiC in

acidic and basic environments and

its extremely high hardness, it is

assumed, that the container wall will

not be damaged neither by corrosion

nor by erosion during the nominal

life time t N of the repository: d(t) = d 0

for 0 < t < t N .

Furthermore, it is assumed, that

the integrity of the waste package

is maintained by respective dimensioning

of material zone Z2 (e.g.

bentonite) and by appropriate

| Figure 6

Pathways for material transport through the container wall.

emplacement conditions in a stable

host rock.

But despite an intact container

wall material transport happens by

diffusion. (Figure 6) [18].

The diffusion coefficient D is

specific for each container material

and for each type of the nuclide. D is a

function of temperature T: D = D(T).

The temperature dependence of the

diffusion coefficient is usually given

by the ARRHENIUS equation:

D(T) = D 0 exp[ - E A /(RT)](2)

with E A in kJ/Mole and

R = 8.3143 J/Mole.

The data basis for diffusion coefficients

of radionuclides in SiC is quite

limited momentarily. Existing values

have been measured by radiation and

heating experiments in the temperature

range from 600° to 1200 °C.

A standard data set exists for the

metallic fission products Cs, Sr and Ag


For the temperature range in a final

repository (T < 200 °C) no relevant

data could be found. But it seems

admissible to use extrapolated values

for the presented estimations which

make use of many assumptions

anyway. The assumptions are always

on the conservative side.

The diffusion processes are

described elsewhere [19]. The glassy

| Table 4

SSiC container dimensions for different waste forms (Figure 5) (container monolithic or segmented).

Decommissioning and Waste Management

TRIPLE C Waste Container for Increased Long-term Safety of HHGW Disposal in Salt, Clay and Crystalline ı Jürgen Knorr and Albert Kerber

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July

carbon layer as intended protection

layer for the inner wall surface

(Ag, Pd) exercises due to its special

properties a delaying effect on the

diffusion process. In this way and

together with additional potting

material in zone Z1 a “functional

barrier” is formed. Its influence on

diffusion can be lumped-up to an

increased wall thickness (d+r), r

having the dimension of a length.

The critical diffusion coefficients

D crit , which fulfil the leak-proof

criteria of Table 2 for the given wall

thickness d 0 together with the

functional barrier (characterized by r)

are than

D crit < (d 0 +r) 2 /6t N (3)

(break-through-time criterion)

Taking d 0 = r = 10 -2 m and t N = 10 6

years the values for D crit are in

the range from 10 -20 …..10 -18 m 2 s -1

( Figure 7, hatched area)

The results shall be interpreted in

the following way.

If a radionuclide i has a diffusion

coefficient D i < D crit in the temperature

range of the repository

(T < 200 °C) than the SSiC container

is considered as leakproof for this

nuclide i over the nominal lifecycle

of the repository, provided its overall

integrity is maintained.

Within the uncertainties of the

assumptions, the chance is given

that principally, the safety goal

ISOLATION for an essential barrier

can be fulfilled by intact SSiC container.

But engineered systems fail. So do

SSiC containers too, by random and

systematic failures. High standards in

manufacturing and quality control of

SSiC containers can provide a low

random failure rate F1, but nevertheless

the consequences of container

failure can be considerable.

For example, there are N equal

waste containers with equally distributed

inventory M c = M 0 /N.

Assuming N =10 4 container and only

one containers fails totally (F 1 = 1),

than the released amount on Level 1 is

M 1 = F 1 M c = 10 -4 M 0 , This equals

already the maximal permitted

release value for the whole repository

(Table 2). So additional mitigating

measures on Level 2 (and on Level 3 if

possible) are necessary.

Normally, the design of a repository

starts with a careful search and

selection of the site and host rock

type (Level 2). Focussed only on the

site search, achieving ultra reliable

system performance (e.g. safety goal

ISOLATION) is difficult. It requires

identifying the even very unlikely

failure causes for the given system and

then redesigning the system to remove

them (in the extreme case: selection

of another type or site of host rock

becomes necessary as in the case of

Asse II). Maybe that the achievable

overall failure rate F is still too high.

Then the necessary next step is

to provide redundant subsystems.

Maybe the site has not a second

geological barrier (site Gorleben,

Germany): Than a redundant subsystem

can be provided only on

Level 1., because it is impossible (or

too expensive) to construct an essential

retention barrier on Level 3. Only

ceramic waste containers have the

potential for an essential barrier

providing long-term retention.

But systematic failures can affect

the large number of identical waste

containers. A common cause failure is

a specific type of systematic failure

where several failures result from a

single shared cause. Two types have to

be distinguished: the common event

failure and the common mode failure.

A common event failure is given,

when multiple failures result from one

single external or internal event. The

failures are usually simultaneous or

nearly so. Common event failures can

launch failure sequences (cascade

failures). External events include

earthquake, tsunami, hurricane, flood

(external FEB‘s, Figure 2). Internal

events like criticality may develop in a

cascade from external events.

A common mode failure is the

other specific type of a common cause

failure, where several subsystems fail

in the same way for the same reason.

Common mode failures occur at

different times. The common cause

could be a design defect (e.g.

inadequate, non-corrosion-resistant

container material)


Common event failures are a major

concern for redundant systems. The

formation of a critical assembly inside

the repository is a common event

which can have severe consequences

for the overall retention capability,

in the first line by heat generation

with a subsequent destruction of

the repository structure. Therefore,

measures have to be foreseen which

exclude criticality definitely

Outside FEB‘s can trigger a

sequence of internal processes which

support the formation of a critical

assembly. A possible, not totally

unlikely scenario (Figure 6) includes

| Figure 7

Diffusion coefficients of Ag in SiC and in copper for comparison.

several steps: destruction of original

fuel cladding (Level 0), destruction of

original fuel geometry, relocation of

fuel inside container, loss of container

integrity, water ingress in repository

and finally in the container, material

transport processes in the near-field of

the container, coupling with other

destroyed containers, ultimately selforganization

of a sufficient amount of

fissile material in a geometry, which

generates a self-sustaining fission

chain reaction (criticality, effective

multiplication factor k eff = 1).

The safety goal CONTROL is

achieved, if subcriticality k eff (t) < 0.95

is always garantued for 0 < t < t N for

the overall repository as well as

for each subregion (Table 2) [1].

Generally, the effective multiplication

factor k eff is a function of material

composition, geometry, temperature T

and time t:

k eff = f[material(t), geometry(t), T(t)]


Only one spent PWR fuel element of

average burn-up contains enough

fissile material to start a chain reaction

under “improved” geometrical conditions

and in the presence of an

appropriate moderator.

Several measures can prevent

self-organized criticality:

p stabilization of the material geometry

inside the container (a single

tall fuel element is not an optimal

geometry for criticality)

p prevention of water access


Decommissioning and Waste Management

TRIPLE C Waste Container for Increased Long-term Safety of HHGW Disposal in Salt, Clay and Crystalline ı Jürgen Knorr and Albert Kerber

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July


| Figure 8

Principle arrangement of potting compound containing boron (left) and

for demonstration in a 7-rod bundle in an SSiC container (right).

p neutron absorber in the container.

The TRIPLE C concept foresees

a special measure which solves

these problems simultaneously. The

numerous voids in the container

between the waste and the container

wall resp. between the single rods of a

fuel element are filled with a so-called

potting compound (Figure 8).

After loading the waste in the

container, the potting compound –

being in a floating state – is poured in

to fill all voids. In the simplest way it

can be dry sand in a mixture with a

boron containing component. But the

preferred potting compound solidifies

after filling. A SiC precursor with a

small surplus of carbon and boron as

sinter additive is transformed into

solid SiC under the influence of

radiation from the waste (RISiC:

radiation induced SiC). The necessary

activation energy for the endothermic

SiC reaction comes from the B-10(n,a)

neutron capture reaction [14]. The

product is a very hard porous material,

which stabilizes the inside geometry

and prevents relocation of waste,

absorbs neutrons, shields the container

wall against radiation defects

from neutrons, prevents water ingress,

improves the heat transfer inside the

container and enhances the overall

mechanical stability of the SSiC


So potting with an appropriate

compound forms a combination of

several efficient measures to prevent

criticality already on Level 1. These

measures are backed-up by a leakproof

container, a bentonite buffer

and a dry emplacement environment.

laid the basis for further investi gations

[20],[21]. The known mechanical

properties of SiC under static and

dynamic load are completed by

supplementary laboratory tests.

Although strength values for SiC and

especially for SSiC are very high, the

extreme brittle behavior has to be

considered in case of impact and

point-like loading. Comprehensive

numerical simulations were performed

for the most critical potential

loadings during transportation to the

final position and during the storage

in the emplacement position. As

criterion for potential damage a static

tensile strength of 150 MPa was used.

Investigated load cases include free

fall of an unprotected/protected

container, rock fall on the container

and earth pressure up to a depth of

1200 m. The most important conclusions

can be summarized as follows:

p Earth pressure, even with high

anisotropy of stress, cannot lead to

any damage of the SSiC container,

even if no protective cover is used.

p Extreme loading constellations

during transport and emplacement

can lead to local peak stresses in

the container body, which exceed

the 150 MPa criterion. But by using

an appropriate protective cover

(overpack, transport container,

buffer) damage can be excluded

with high probability.



In comparison with the other

safety goals, HEAT REMOVAL and

SHIELDING have a minor priority.

The limited waste inventory (low

heat source) together with an

improved heat transfer by the potting

material and the excellent thermal

conductivity of the SSiC container

material will avoid hot spots and

provide sufficient heat removal to

keep the container surface temperature

below the maximal permitted

value (< 100 °C).

The SSiC container itself together

with the potting material cannot

provide sufficient radiation shielding.

Therefore an appropriate transfer

container is required for the transport

of the waste package between final

conditioning facility and the emplacement

position. Once in the final

position (several hundert meters

below earth surface), the overlaying

rock and earth layers protect the

biosphere completely from the

radiation, emitted by intact waste


TRIPLE C container

The term TRIPLE C stands for a

threefold ceramic encapsulation

(Figure 9).

The crucial component is the SSiC

container (B2). The voids between

waste (here spent fuel with cladding

B1) and the container are filled with

the potting material (Z1). A shock

absorber (SA, e.g. graphite felt) and

an overpack (OP) protect the brittle

SSiC container. The newly developed

carbon concrete is proposed as

material for the overpack [22]. The

armor of this concrete container

consists of woven carbon fibre

structures instead of steel, making the

whole composite much stronger,

lighter and less susceptible to


The function of each single layer

has been discussed in Chap. 5. The

SSiC container is tailored to the

dimensions of the waste. This

allows the completion of the INITIAL

BARRIER (Table 1) at an early stage

of the back-end history (preferably

already at transition SP2/TP2,

Figure 2). It includes the following

steps: loading waste in the SSiC

container, potting, hermetical closing

of container body with lid, laser

engraving with ID and Safeguards

seal). Either type of host rock nor

specific site conditions of the intended

repository must be known at this time.

Such early “disposal pre­ conditioning”


The main generally expressed concern

against the application of all kinds of

ceramics is their brittleness and the

risk of failure under mechanical


The geomechanical aspects of SSiC

waste containers have been investigated

by the Geomechanical Institute

of TU Bergakademie Freiberg which

| Figure 9

TRIPLE C concept for HHGW container: threefold ceramic encapsulation.

Decommissioning and Waste Management

TRIPLE C Waste Container for Increased Long-term Safety of HHGW Disposal in Salt, Clay and Crystalline ı Jürgen Knorr and Albert Kerber

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July

| Figure 10

TRIPLE C – a waste container concept of

ceramic layers in MATRIOSHKA geometry.

can be very helpful for the subsequent

waste management (handling,

extended storage, transportation).

A schematic representation of a

TRIPLE C waste package in the final

repository environment [23] is

illustrated in Figure 10. The inner

retention barriers, consisting of the

ceramic potting compound and the

solid SSiC wall, are invariant for

all kinds of host rocks, since their

predominant function is to keep the

source term for spreading of hazardous

materials at Q(t) = 0 at Level 1. This

requires an undamaged SSiC container

for the total lifecycle of 1 Mio

years. The interspace between the container

and the carbon concrete overpack

is filled with a shock absorbing

material. The armour of the overpack

and the shock absorber can be used

together as a fibre bag cargo lifter. [24]

The specifications for overpack and

buffer can be chosen at a very late time

in the waste history, according to the

conditions in the emplacement position.

The thickness of the carbon concrete

overpack must be designed

according to the needs for handling

and transport protection. The thickness

of the embedding bentonite is

dependent of the surrounding host

rock and the respective load

para meters are contributed by

geomecha nics [25]. As their main

function, the bentonite and the

overpack have to protect the inner barriers

from mechanical damage by the

host rock.

This principle of split and shared

functions makes the TRIPLE C

container flexible and adaptable to all

types of host rock [4],[23]. Figure 11

shows different steps of encapsulation

of a hexagonal PWR fuel element

(dummy, WWER – 1000).

TRIPLE C container

change paradigm

SSiC properties and high technological

standards of container manufacturing

and quality control justify

the claim that each TRIPLE C container

fulfills the requirements of an

essential barrier for the container

inventory (Table 2).

The total inventory M 0 is distri buted

on N container (M 0 /N). If properly protected

from geo mechanical loads each

container has the potential for a zerosource

term Q(t) = 0 over the repository

life time. Together the N leakproof

container represent an essential

barrier for the total inventory. The

retention capa bility of N individually

quality controlled TRIPLE C container

is estimated to be higher than the

retention capability of one big-volume

emplacement rock (volume ~ 10 9 m 3 ).

It seems justified to consider Level 1

as the main retention barrier

( ISOLATION). The top priority for

Level 2 becomes than PROTECTION

for Level 1.

| Table 5

New paradigm in repository philosophy: shift of main retention barrier to EBS.

| Figure 11

Demo -TRIPLE C container: 7-rod-bundle with demo carbon concrete overpack [courtesy 22] (left) and

first steps of encapsulating of PWR/BWR spent fuel elements

A shift of the main retention barrier

from geological barrier to engineered

barrier is a paradigm change in the

basic philosophy for repository

concepts. It may change the perception

of the repository safety in the

public debate too.

TRIPLE C waste container

enhance longterm safety

of repositories

TRIPLE C waste container provide

redundancy and diversity to each

repository concept especially for the

measures focussed on ISOLATION

and CONTROL (Table 6).

The use of TRIPLE C containers is

not limited to a definite emplacement

environment [25]. They can become an

essential part of all repository concepts

in salt, clay or crystalline (Table 7). A

favorite combination could be the

following arrangement: SSiC container

(B2) with potting (Z1) and carbon concrete

overpack (OP) in bentonite buffer

(Z2) and salt emplace ment rock (B3;

steep or flat: plastic behavior of salt

fulfils the fail-safe principle by selfsealing)

and after all with a leakproof

overlay (B4). Taking into account the

easy solubility of salt in water, crystalline

(B3) with a leakproof second geological

barrier (B4, salt or clay) can be a

promising alternative.

For many years the Swedish design

with KBS-3 copper container has very

often been cited as the internationally

accepted Reference Concept and has

found derivatives in Finland, Japan,

Uk, Switzerland and others. But

with the decision of the Swedish

Environmental Court [4] in the

beginning of 2018 it came under

harsh criticism and caused moratoria

and scrutiny of national programs.

Applying the same, above outlined

criteria to the existing repository

concepts, even to the newly published

10 German RESUS concepts [26]

reveal the same fundamental flaws:

absence of long-term safety measures


Decommissioning and Waste Management

TRIPLE C Waste Container for Increased Long-term Safety of HHGW Disposal in Salt, Clay and Crystalline ı Jürgen Knorr and Albert Kerber

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July


| Table 6

Contributions of TRIPLE C container to redundancy and

diversity of safety measures.

on Level 1 (Table 7) resulting in lack

of redundancy and diversity for the

whole repository concept.


Innovative technologies can help

to overcome fundamental flaws in

repository concepts, having dominated

for decades the safety philosophy

for final disposal of HHGW.

TRIPLE C container can be implemented

in each repository concept.

The features of tailored ceramic

encapsulation following the TRIPLE C

concept justify the claim to build

confidence in long-term safety on the

engineered barrier system (EBS). Not

surprisingly, this shift of the main retention

barrier from host rock to EBS

is a hardly acknowledged new paradigm.

Enforced RD&D will be necessary

to demonstrate the superiority of

this concept. Extended variety in repository

site selection and greater

public acceptances will be worth the


The time has come to reconsider

the contribution of innovative waste

packages to the increased long-term

safety of HHGW disposal in salt, clay

and crystalline.


[1] Verordnung über Sicherheitsanforderungen an die

Endlagerung hochradioaktiver Abfälle (Endlagersicherheitsanforderungsverordnung

EndlSiAnfV) Referentenentwurf

vom 17.07.2019

[2] J. Knorr, A. Kerber , Final disposal of highly radioactive waste ,

Contribution to public debate , submitted to German

Repository Commission, final report K- Drs268, June 2016

[3] J. Knorr, A. Kerber, TRIPLE C Package – full-ceramic, multibarrier

waste container for final deposition of high radioactive

and toxic materials in all types of host rocks (crystalline, clay,

salt) , Revised Version of Handouts for Meeting BMUB Berlin

2017-05-17, Meeting BGE Salzgitter 2017-10-11

[4] Decision of the Swedish Environmental Court, 23.01.2018,

Summary of the Court‘s Statement 180123

[5] Deutsches Kupferinstitut, Werkstoffdatenblätter Cu-ETP,

Cu-HCP und Cu OFE, Korrosionsbeständigkeit

[6] Deutsche Edelstahlwerke, Acidur 4301, Werkstoffdatenblatt

X5CrNi18-10, 1.4301

| Table 7

TRIPLE C container – an excellent match for all repository concepts enhancing long-term safety.

[7] Bundesverband der Deutschen Gießerei-Industrie (BDG),

Gusseisen mit Kugelgraphit, Herstellung-Eigenschaften-

Anwendung, konstruieren + gießen 32 (2007) Nr. 2, p. 69/70

[8] Lay, L.A. Corrosion Resistance of Technical Ceramics, National

Physical Laboratory, Teddington, Middlesex. Pub H.M.S.O.,

ISBN 0114800510, 1983

[9] NRC Glossary (current)

[10] Proposed Strategy for Development of Regulations Governing

Disposal of High-Level Radioactive Wastes in a Proposed

Repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada SECY-97-300

[11] Mary Drouin, Brian Wagner, John Lehner, Vinod Mubayi,

Historical Review and Observations of Defense-in-Depth

NUREG/KM-0009, April, 2016

[12] Standortauswahlgesetz vom 5. mai 2017 (BG Bl I S. 1074)


[13] H.W. Jones , Common Cause Failures and Ultra Reliability

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffet Field, CA, 94035-0001,


[14] A. Kerber, J. Knorr SiC encapsulation of high level waste for

long-term immobilization, atw International Journal for

Nuclear Power 1/2013 p. 8-13

[15] H. Nabielek, K. Verfonderen: Integrity of TRISO Particle

Coating during Long-Term Storage under Corrosion. EU

co-funded RAPHAEL program D-BF2.1, Jülich, March 2010

[16] R. Moormann, K. Vervonderen, Methodik umfassender

Sicherheitsanalyse für zukünftige HTR-Anlagenkonzepte

Band 3 Spaltproduktfreisetzuing Jül-Spez-388 Mai 1987

ISBN 343-7639

[17] Deutsche Patentanmeldung 10 2018 114 463.6 „Verfahren zum

Verbinden von Bauteilen aus SSiC“, SiCeram GmbH, Jena-Maua

[18] A. Kerber, J. Knorr, Silicon carbide – the most promising

container material for deposition of high radioactive nuclear

waste, paper submitted April 2020 to 4 th Sino-German

Workshop for Radioactive Waste Management, Hannover,

Germany, October 21 th – 23 th , 2020

[19] J. Knorr, A. Kerber, Ableitung elementarer Auslegungskriterien

für SSiC-Behälter, SiCeram GmbH, interner Bericht,

Jena-Maua, März 2020

[20] Y.-N. Zhao, H. Konietzky, J. Knorr, A. Kerber, Preliminary study

on geomechanical aspects of SiC canisters, Adv. Geosci., 45,

63-72, 2018

[21] A. Kerber, J. Knorr, „Triple C – the host rock adaptable

container concept for disposal of high radioactive waste“,

GMK 47, Nov. 16, 2018, p. 157-168

[22] CARBOCON GmbH World Trade Center Dresden,


[23] Patent Nr. 10 2011 115 044 Keramischer Behälter und

Verfahren zur Endlagerung von radioaktivem Abfall

G21F 5/005, SiCeram GmbH, Jena-Maua

[24] A. Kerber, J. Knorr , TRIPLE C – Stellungnahme zum Fragenkatalog

der BGE TEC vom 8.11. 2019, Jena, November 2019

[25] Y.-N. Zhao, Geomechanical aspects of Sintered Silicon Carbide

(SSiC) waste canisters for disposal of high level radioactive

waste , PhD thesis, TU Bergakademie Freiberg, Faculty of

Geoscience, Geoengineering and Mining September 16, 2020

[26] BGE TECHNOLOGY GmbH Empfehlungen zur sicherheitsgerichteten

Anwendung der geowissenschaftlichen

Abwägungskriterien des StandAG, Synthese aus dem

Vorhaben RESUS (Entwurf) Braunschweig, 03.04.2020 Bericht

GRS – 568 (ISBN 978-3-947685-54-7)


Prof. Dr. Jürgen Knorr

GWT-TUD GmbH, Nuclear

Power Engineering,

Dresden, Germany



Since 1992 Juergen Knorr is Professor for Nuclear

Engineering at Dresden University of Technology

(Emeritus since 2006). He graduated in physics and

prepared his PhD in nuclear technologies. From 1975

to 1992 he was responsible for the design, construction

and operation of the AKR training reactor (from

the German Ausbildungskernreaktor) in Dresden.

Between 1993 and 2000 Juergen was President of

the German Nuclear Society and Board Member of

the European Nuclear Society. The cooperation

with SiCeram GmbH for the application of high-tech

ceramics in nuclear sector startet in 2003.

Dr. Albert Kerber

Co-owner and

Managing Director

SiCeram GmbH,

Jena, Germany


Since 1998 Albert Kerber is the co-owner and

managing director of the company SiCeram GmbH

in Jena, Germany, with the emphasis on high

performance ceramics. After studying chemical

engineering, he gained his doctorate at the Technical

University Karlsruhe. The cooperation with Prof. Knorr

started in the year 2003 and focusses on the

application of high tech ceramic materials in the

nuclear sector, especially for innovative solutions

in the field of nuclear waste disposal.

Decommissioning and Waste Management

TRIPLE C Waste Container for Increased Long-term Safety of HHGW Disposal in Salt, Clay and Crystalline ı Jürgen Knorr and Albert Kerber

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July

Concreting in Hot Cells – as Illustrated

by the Example of a Central French Waste

Treatment Plant

Joel Bauer

1 Introduction EDF (Électricité de France) has put a central waste treatment plant (ICEDA) in operation for

the conditioning of activated core internals. The facility is to be used by French nuclear power plants and is located near

Lyon, France.

ICEDA is used to treat metallic waste

both from the decommissioning of

first-generation nuclear plants and

from nuclear facilities currently in

operation. The remaining low and

intermediate activity nuclear waste is

packaged and stored here temporarily

before being transported to the French

ANDRA repository for final disposal.

Bilfinger Noell GmbH (BNG) was

awarded the contract for design,

manufacturing, assembly and commissioning

of the entire hot cells. It is

worth mentioning that following

successful commissioning of the

equipment, it was handed over to EDF

in 2019/2020. The system has a

design life of at least 50 years. This

paper describes the embedding of the

waste, which is performed in three

steps, in more detail (Figure 1).

In the waste treatment plant’s

three-stage concreting process, the

solid, activated waste (yellow) is first

immobilized (1) in a stainless steel

container. A low-viscosity cement

paste (cream-colored) is used for this

purpose which can be pumped over

long distances and is able to penetrate

the spaces between the waste. Once

the cement paste has cured, the

stainless steel container is placed in a

concrete container suitable for final

storage. This is followed by grouting

of the gap (2) between the two

containers in order to secure the

stainless steel container in position.

A low-viscosity cement paste (dark

gray) is also used for gap grouting;

this is however not pumped, as in

immobilization, but poured from a

Concrete Hopper attached to a crane.

Once this cement paste has cured, the

final concreting step takes place,

namely cask capping (3). Here, highly

viscous concrete (light gray) is poured

from the Concrete Hopper onto the

gap grout. The conditioned concrete

waste container ready for final

dis posal is shown schematically in (4).

The components used for concreting

are designed to ensure a remote,

smooth process over long

periods of time without the need for

intervention in the hot cells. For the

steps referred to above, specially

developed types of concrete with a

wide range of viscosities are used in

the process.

The location, the process steps of

the individual concreting stages and

the structural design of the concreting

components are discussed below.


| Figure 1

Illustration of the three-stage concreting process consisting of immobilization of the waste (1),

gap grouting (2), cask capping (3); the final conditioned concrete container is illustrated in (4).

| Figure 2

Illustration showing the different positions of the concreting steps in two different cells; left cell:

immobilization of the waste (orange arrows); right cell: gap grouting (yellow arrows) and cask capping

(green arrows); the trolleys and belt conveyor for transfer and the manipulators for handling are shown.

2 Concreting location

This chapter briefly summarizes the

concreting locations and the waste

movements (Figure 2).

The entire concreting process is

carried out by remote control in two

hot cells. The nuclear waste is encapsulated

with cement paste in the

immobilization cell (Figure 3). Steel

containers housing the nuclear waste

are transferred individually into the

cell on a trolley, then picked up by a

crane and placed in the immobilization

area (orange arrows). The immobilization

process takes place in this

area as described in chapter 3.1

by means of the remote-controlled

components required for this purpose.

The process can be carried out in

batches of up to 5 steel containers in

order to optimize the throughput.

Once the cement paste has cured, the

containers are placed individually in

a washing machine, located in a

caisson, in which any remaining

unbound surface contamination is

washed off. The steel containers are

then retrieved by a second trolley and

a contamination check is carried

out. Here, the zone jump location is

Decommissioning and Waste Management

Concreting in Hot Cells – as Illustrated by the Example of a Central French Waste Treatment Plant ı Joel Bauer

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July


| Figure 3

Overview of the immobilization area (left), the gap grouting area (center) and the cask capping areas (right).

specified, i.e. an area in the next cell

free of unbound contamination. The

steel containers are then lifted into

the next cell by a crane and placed in

the empty concrete containers in the

gap grouting area (yellow arrows).

The gap grouting process is carried

out here as described in chapter 3.2

with use of the remote-controlled

components. Once the cement paste

has cured, the containers are transported

by crane from the gap grouting

area to cask capping area 1 or 2. The

longer curing time of the concrete for

cask capping is the reason for provision

of two areas. The cask capping

process is carried out as described in

chapter 3.3. The concrete containers

are placed by crane individually on a

conveyor belt and are ejected from the

second cell (green arrows).

3 Concreting Steps

This chapter discusses the process

steps of the individual concreting

stages and the structural design of the

concreting components.

3.1 Immobilization

of the waste

Figure 4 shows the process flow of

immobilization. The important points

with regard to the concreting components

are addressed here in the


The filling apparatus for the stainless

steel container is designed in the form

of a tripod (Figure 5). The tripod features

a strap with which it can be attached

remotely to a crane or power

manipulator. Sloped insertion guides

enable it to be placed easily on different

geometries of stainless steel container.

A lock can be used to attach

one or more concrete hoses remotely

to the tripod and secure them against


p Attachment of concrete hose to


A remote-controlled wall-mounted jib

crane (Figure 6) is used for optimum

access to all stainless steel containers

to be filled. The crane draws the

redundant concrete hoses along the

guide hooks from the wall penetration

to the filling equipment.

A quality control of the mixed

cement paste’s density and viscosity is

first carried out. Filling of the stainless

steel container then begins. Filling is

monitored by level sensors attached to

the filling tripod which interrupt

delivery when the required filling

level is reached. The sensors are of

redundant design for safety reasons.

The process can also be monitored

through a radiation protection

window and by means of a camera


p Flushing process in stainless steel


Flushing (Figure 7), which is essential

for the hoses, takes place in the

hot cell. A frame is provided for this

purpose which can be placed by

remote control on a stainless steel

container (of the same type as that for

radioactive waste). The concrete

flushing hose can also be attached to

the frame by remote control. Flushing

is then carried out until a clear,

aqueous phase is observed. The

remaining particles of the cement

paste sediment and bind to the bottom

of the waste container. One level

sensor each for the aqueous and

sediment phases is also located on the

frame. When the upper level of the

aqueous phase is reached, the water is

pumped out of the cell through a

micro filter by a hose pump. When the

upper level of the sediment is reached,

the water is pumped out, the sediment

| Figure 4

Detailed process flow chart of immobilization of the waste.

p Placement of filling tripod on

stainless steel container

| Figure 6

Wall-mounted jib crane.

| Figure 5

Filling tripod on stainless steel container.

| Figure 7

Frame for flushing on additional stainless steel container and hose pump for pumping water.

Decommissioning and Waste Management

Concreting in Hot Cells – as Illustrated by the Example of a Central French Waste Treatment Plant ı Joel Bauer

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July

| Figure 8

Process flow chart of gap grouting.

| Figure 9

Filling of Concrete Hopper with cement paste.

is allowed to dry out, and the waste

container is measured for contamination

and transported out of the cell.

3.2 Gap grouting

In the second concreting step, the

stainless steel container filled with the

immobilized waste is encapsulated

with cement paste within a final

storage container made of concrete.

The process of gap grouting of the

stainless steel container can be seen in

detail in Figure 8. The most important

points regarding the concreting

components at this stage are dealt

with in the sub-chapters.

p Cement paste level measurement

Level measurement is carried out

remotely at different points on the

stainless steel container. The values

read by the camera system indicate an

additional gap grouting volume,

which is added to the volume calculated

from the geometry of the

concrete containers. From this total

volume, which is calculated in the

plant’s control system, and the density

of the cement paste, the weight of the

gap grouting is calculated which must

be present in the Concrete Hopper

(Figure 9) in order for the stainless

steel container to be fully covered

without the concrete container being


p Filling of Concrete Hopper

Quality control of the mixed cement

paste is first performed with regard to

its density and viscosity. The Concrete

Hopper is then filled with cement

paste. It is positioned for this purpose

directly beneath the outlet of the

cement paste mixer by means of a

pallet truck. The excess cement paste

is pumped out of the Concrete Hopper

on a tared scale. The Concrete Hopper,

containing the correct quantity of

paste, is craned from above by its

crane eye into the hot cell (Figure

10). Within the cell, the Concrete

Hopper is handled by a cell crane.

p Gap grouting

The Concrete Hopper is brought into

position over the concrete container

by means of the cell crane. The

pneumatic flap of the Concrete

Hopper is opened by means of the cell

manipulator activated by a button,

and the grouting is poured evenly into

the gap by a distributor, which is

placed on the concrete container

before the gap is grouted. The cement

paste residues are discharged from

the Concrete Hopper by means of

pneumatic rotary vibrators, which

are also activated by a button. The

pneumatic flap is then closed and the

transport container is returned to the

cold area for cleaning. The distributor

is cleaned with water in the hot cell

by means of a system of nozzles.

p Final treatment of concrete


Owing to the high air exchange rates

caused by ventilation in the cells and

the resulting high evaporation rates of

the free water on the surface of the

cement paste, the freshly poured

surface must be protected. This is

achieved by the gentle application of

water to the surface through a remotecontrolled

hose system. After a

defined period of time, this water is

then vacuumed from the surface into

a waste container by means of a hose


3.3 Cask capping

In the third concreting step, a concrete

“cap” for the concrete container is

poured. Figure 11 shows the detailed

sub-steps of this process. The significant

points of the concreting components

are discussed in the subchapters.

p Preparation

Level measurement is carried out

remotely at three points on the

concrete container. The values read by

the camera system indicate an

additional cask capping volume,

which is added to the volume calculated

from the geometry of the concrete

container. From this total volume,

which is calculated in the plant’s control

system, and the density of the

concrete, the weight of the concrete

for cask capping is calculated which

must be present in the Concrete Hopper

in order for the concrete container

to be precisely filled.

p Filling of Concrete Hopper

In this process, quality control is first

performed of the density and viscosity

of the mixed concrete. The Concrete

Hopper is then filled with concrete. It

is positioned for this purpose directly

beneath the outlet of the concrete

mixer by a pallet truck. The excess

concrete is skimmed off the Concrete

Hopper directly by means of a shovel

| Figure 10

Left: The Concrete Hopper is placed over the concrete container; right: distributor after cleaning process.

| Figure 11

Cask capping: process flow chart.


Decommissioning and Waste Management

Concreting in Hot Cells – as Illustrated by the Example of a Central French Waste Treatment Plant ı Joel Bauer

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July



| Figure 12

Left: The Concrete Hopper is placed on the concrete container; right: vibrator with vibrating fingers.

on a tared scale. The hopper, containing

the correct quantity of concrete,

is craned from above by its crane

eye into the hot cell. Within the cell,

the Concrete Hopper is handled by a

cell crane (Figure 12).

p Cask capping with vibration

The Concrete Hopper is brought into

position on the concrete container by

means of the cell crane. The pneumatic

flap of the Concrete Hopper is

opened by means of the cell manipulator,

which is activated by a button,

and the concrete is passed through the

funnel of the vibrator. The vibrator is

placed on the concrete container prior

to cask capping. The residues of the

concrete are discharged from the

Concrete Hopper by means of pneumatic

rotational vibrators. These are

also activated by a button and are

operated pneumatically. The pneumatic

flap is then closed and the transport

container is returned to the cold

area for cleaning. The vibrator consists

of a frame to which four electrically

operated vibrating fingers are

attached. These too are activated by a

button which is operated from outside

the cell. Once the grouting has been

completely poured in from the

Concrete Hopper, the vibrating fingers

on the vibrator are activated and the

concrete is distributed to form an even

surface. The vibrator is cleaned with

water in the hot cell by means of a

brush system.

p Final treatment of concrete


Owing to the high air exchange rates

caused by the ventilation in the cells

and the resulting high evaporation

rate of the free water on the surface of

the concrete, the freshly poured

surface must be protected. This is

achieved by the gentle application of

water to the surface through a

remote-controlled hose system. Since

the cap is the final barrier on the conditioned

concrete container, stainless

steel lids are also placed on the concrete

containers for additional protection.

The lids are removed after a defined

period of time and the added

water is vacuumed from the surface

into a waste water container by means

of a hose pump.

p Quality control

During quality control, the concrete

containers are checked against the

requirements of the ANDRA repository.

It must be possible for cracks,

flakes, depressions, etc. on the entire

surface of the concrete container to be

detected by camera and quantified by

means of various remote-controlled

tools. The dose rate is measured

after the conformity of the concrete

container has been approved.

4 Summary

A central waste treatment plant

( ICEDA) is put in operation for the

conditioning of solid, activated waste.

In this facility, the waste is conditioned

in a three-stage concreting

process in concrete containers suitable

for final disposal. Specially

manufactured components are used

for the different requirements in the

individual process steps to ensure the

efficacy of the overall process.

Furthermore, the entire process is

notable for being remote-controlled

by operators using manipulators from

outside the cell.

It is important that the individual

process steps in the concreting stages

are strictly followed, as the cement

paste and the concrete react sensitively

to deviations in the process or

external influences. These deviations

could compromise the conformity of

the waste container and can lead to

the waste having to be retrieved,

which is highly resource-intensive.

The entire process is based on a

high level of engineering to keep the

components controllable and moreover,


Joel Bauer

Technical Project


Bilfinger Noell GmbH


In 2017, Joel Bauer finished his studies in Chemical

and Process Engineering with a Master Degree at

Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT). In 2018 he

joined Bilfinger Noell GmBH as an Project Engineer,

now Technical Project Manager.

He has several experience in the field of decomissioning

tasks, e.g. EWN – cementation plant, Lubmin,

Germany, Planning/construction of a cementation

plant for low level radioactive waste; and ICEDA, Lyon,

France, Commissioning of the concreting components.

Decommissioning and Waste Management

Concreting in Hot Cells – as Illustrated by the Example of a Central French Waste Treatment Plant ı Joel Bauer

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July

Error Reduction in Radioactivity

Calculation for Retired Nuclear Power

Plant Considering Detailed Plant-specific

Operation History

Young Jae Maeng and Chan Hyeong Kim

Introduction Of the more than 560 commercial nuclear power plants that are or have been in operation,

approximately 120 plants have been permanently shut down and are in the process of decommissioning [1, 2]. In Korea,

decommissioning of a retired NPP will begin in 2023; some countries have already decommissioned nuclear power

plants. The schedule, strategy, and cost for reducing radioactive waste associated with decommissioning are closely

related to the type and quantity of radioactive material present at the plant. Thus, evaluation of the radioactivity

distribution of each radioactive isotope is important in sorting and disposal.

Radioactivity of structures near the

reactor core including reactor internals,

vessel, and concrete shield is

mainly due to neutron irradiation,

known as the neutron activation

phenomenon which can be calculated

after radiological characterization [3].

The radioactivity level is dependent

on the neutron flux irradiating the

structure and the neutron absorption

cross-section of the materials.

The neutron flux level is generally

dependent on the reactor power level

and the cycle-specific fuel loading

pattern. The power level varies during

the plant lifetime through plant overhaul,

emergency reactor trip, and low

power operation such as heat-up, cooldown,

and transient processes. Varying

power levels affect the saturated

activity value. For zero power operation

including overhaul and reactor

trip, the activities exponentially

decrease based on the decay constant

of each radioactive isotope. However

calculating activities is difficult for a

retired nuclear power plant due to

long operation life and variable

flux level. Thus, the cal culation of

radio activity has been traditionally

performed using average neutron flux

and effective full power days [4, 5, 6,

7], which could result in significant


In the present study, a method

for calculating radioactivity using

detailed plant-specific operation

history is introduced. The method

considers cycle-specific neutron flux

level and monthly operation history

from the inception of the plant.

The results of the calculated activities

are compared with results of the

traditional method and also compared

with measurement data sets

from five surveillance capsules from

the plant.

Materials and methods

General activity calculation

The neutron-induced activation phenomenon

is well known. The activity

of the product nuclide when it is produced

at a constant rate R (atoms/s)

due to neutron irradiation is written

as [8]


where A is activity (Bq), and λ is the

decay constant (s -1 ) of the product

nuclide. In Eq. (1), the constant production

rate R can be written as


where N 0 is the number of target

nuclides irradiated by the neutron flux

φ(E) (neutrons/cm 2 -s), and σ(E) (cm 2 )

is the microscopic cross-section for the

activation reaction. To calculate the

activity manually, the integral term in

Eq. (2) must be approximated in summation

form as Σσφ.

If the target nuclide is irradiated by

neutron irradiation for time i (s) and

undergoes decay for time j (s), the

activity becomes


where A 0 is the initial activity (Bq)

indicating the production of activity

according to Eq. (1) during time t (s).

Therefore, it is possible to calculate

the activity including both irradiation

period and decay period. Traditionally,

this simple equation is used to

estimate radioactivity distribution.

Activity calculation considering

operation history and flux level

The method considering operation

history and flux level is related to

production rate R represented by

Eq. (2). If the neutron flux φ(E) in

Eq. (2) is changed, production rate

R also change. Assuming that the

neutron flux is constant during a

certain period, we can obtain R in

period i as


where n represents the last number of

the group-wise neutron spectrum;

47 neutron energy group is applied in

this study. φ i j is the j th group neutron

spectrum during the period i. The

discretization through Eq. (4) allows

manual calculation of activity. In

Eq. (4), the neutron spectrum φ i j can

be calculated as


where P i is the relative thermal power

level of the i th period and φ full j is the

j group neutron spectrum corresponding

to the full power level. In this

study, cycle-specific φ full j values were

calculated for each cycle using the

RAPTOR-M3G neutron transport code

[9] with the BUGLE-96 cross-section

library [10].

By applying relative thermal power

level P i , we can consider two activation

phenomena. First, the contribution

ratios for low power operation

periods can be considered comparing

with full power operation. Thus,

different saturated activity curves for

each period can be considered even if

the neutron flux level is constant in a

fuel cycle. Second, it is also possible to

reflect the decay for the periods of

zero power. In this study, P i was considered

monthly; the relative thermal

power distribution over the plant lifetime

is shown in (Figure 1).


Decommissioning and Waste Management

Error Reduction in Radioactivity Calculation for Retired Nuclear Power Plant Considering Detailed Plant-specific Operation History ı Young Jae Maeng and Chan Hyeong Kim

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July



Reaction of Interest

| Figure 1

Monthly normalized reactor thermal power level for the plant.

If the final activity considering operation history and flux level is represented

by A i for the i th month, Eq. (3) is rewritten as


Therefore, we can calculate the precise

activity of reaction of interest by

applying P i presented in Eq. (5).

The characteristics of targets or

products such as the reaction of

: 63Cu (n,a) 60Co

90% Neutron Energy Response* : 4.53–11.0 MeV

Target Atom Fraction : 0.6917

Target Atomic Mass

Product Half-Life

Reference : [11]


Reaction of Interest

: 63.546 g/mol

: 1925.5 day

: 54Fe (n,p) 54Mn

90% Neutron Energy Response* : 2.27–7.54 MeV

Target Atom Fraction : 0.0585

Target Atomic Mass

Product Half-Life

Reference : [12]


: 55.845 g/mol

: 312.1 day

interest, target atomic information,

and product half-life are also required

as input. The main characteristics

of the three reactions of interest

are shown in (Table 1). The



Lower Group

Energy (MeV)

group wise microscopic cross-sections

used in this study are presented in

(Table 2).

Based on above, we can calculate

the activity considering the plantspecific

operation history.

Neutron transport calculation

To calculate φ full j in Eq. (5), which is

group-wise neutron spectrum corresponding

to the full power level,

the RAPTOR-M3G code was used.

RAPTOR- M3G is a three dimensional

parallel discrete ordinates radiation

transport code developed by Westinghouse,

verified by the US NRC

( Nuclear Regulatory Committee) in

Reference [15]. The methodology

employed by RAPTOR-M3G is essentially

the same as the methodology

employed by the TORT code [16].

RAPTOR-M3G was designed from its

inception as a parallel-processing

code and adheres to modern best

practices of software development.

The BUGLE96 cross-section library

was used for the neutron transport

calculations. The BUGLE-96 library

provides a 67 group coupled neutrongamma

ray cross section data set

produced specifically for light water

reactor application. In this study,

Cross-Section (barn)

63 Cu(n,α) 60 Co 54 Fe(n,p) 54 Mn 58 Ni(n,p) 58 Co

1 1.42E+01 3.54E-02 2.62E-01 2.60E-01

2 1.22E+01 4.34E-02 4.04E-01 4.70E-01

3 1.00E+01 3.64E-02 4.70E-01 5.92E-01

4 8.61E+00 2.68E-02 4.82E-01 6.23E-01

5 7.41E+00 1.81E-02 4.82E-01 6.25E-01

6 6.07E+00 9.87E-03 4.78E-01 6.05E-01

7 4.97E+00 3.25E-03 4.34E-01 5.09E-01

8 3.68E+00 5.75E-04 3.13E-01 3.81E-01

9 3.01E+00 4.45E-05 1.93E-01 2.45E-01

10 2.73E+00 8.14E-06 1.33E-01 1.71E-01

11 2.47E+00 2.99E-06 7.87E-02 1.25E-01

12 2.37E+00 9.39E-07 5.66E-02 9.66E-02

13 2.35E+00 8.18E-07 5.12E-02 8.85E-02

14 2.23E+00 6.74E-07 4.49E-02 7.91E-02

Reaction of Interest

: 58Ni (n,p) 58Co

15 1.92E+00 2.47E-07 2.93E-02 5.07E-02

90 % Neutron Energy Response* : 1.98–7.51 MeV

Target Atom Fraction : 0.6808

16 1.65E+00 1.37E-08 8.87E-03 2.78E-02

17 1.35E+00 - 2.90E-03 1.46E-02

Target Atomic Mass

Product Half-Life

: 58.933 g/mol

: 70.8 day

18 1.00E+00 - 7.32E-04 5.61E-03

19 8.21E-01 - 8.69E-05 1.29E-03

Reference : [13]

| Table 1

Radiological characteristics for the reactions of interest.

* Energies between which 90 % of activity is produced

( 235 U fission spectrum). Ref. [14]

20 7.43E-01 - 6.56E-06 8.93E-04

21 6.08E-01 - 2.64E-07 5.21E-04

22 4.98E-01 - - 1.77E-04

23 3.69E-01 - - -

Decommissioning and Waste Management

Error Reduction in Radioactivity Calculation for Retired Nuclear Power Plant Considering Detailed Plant-specific Operation History ı Young Jae Maeng and Chan Hyeong Kim

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July



Lower Group

Energy (MeV)

| Figure 2

R-θ-Z geometry for neutron transport


| Figure 3

Mid-plane octant geometry for neutron

transport calculations.

Cross-Section (barn)

63 Cu(n,α) 60 Co 54 Fe(n,p) 54 Mn 58 Ni(n,p) 58 Co

24 2.98E-01 - - -

25 1.83E-01 - - -

26 1.11E-01 - - -

27 6.74E-02 - - -

28 4.09E-02 - - -

29 3.18E-02 - - -

30 2.61E-02 - - -

31 2.42E-02 - - -

32 2.18E-02 - - -

33 1.50E-02 - - -

34 7.10E-03 - - -

35 3.36E-03 - - -

36 1.59E-03 - - -

37 4.54E-04 - - -

38 2.14E-04 - - -

39 1.01E-04 - - -

40 3.73E-05 - - -

41 1.07E-05 - - -

42 5.04E-06 - - -

43 1.86E-06 - - -

44 8.76E-07 - - -

45 4.14E-07 - - -

46 1.00E-07 - - -

47 1.00E-10 - - -

| Table 2

47 energy group and group-wise microscopic cross-sections for the reactions of interest.

anisotropic scattering was treated with

a P 3 Legendre expansion and angular

discretization was modeled with an

S 10 order of angular quadrature.

(Figure 2) shows the three dimensional

neutron transport calculation

model used in this study. (Figure 3)

shows the plan view of reactor geometry

at the core mid-plane. A single

octant depicts the arrangement of

thermal shield and surveillance

capsule attachments. In addition to

the core, reactor internals, pressure

vessel and primary biological shield,

the models developed for these octant

geometries also include explicit representations

of the surveillance capsules,

the pressure vessel cladding,

the pressure vessel reflective insulation,

and the reactor cavity liner plate.

From a neutronic standpoint, the

inclusion of the surveillance capsules

and associated support structure in

the analytical model is significant.

Because the presence of the capsules

and structure has a marked impact on

the magnitude of the neutron flux and

on the relative neutron and gamma

| Figure 4

Axial geometry for neutron transport


ray spectra at dosimetry locations

within the capsules, a meaningful

evaluation of the internal capsule

radiation environment can be made

only when these perturbation effects

are properly accounted for in the


In developing the R-θ-Z analytical

models of the reactor geometry

shown in (Figure 2), nominal design

dimensions were employed for the

different structural components. The

stainless­ steel former plates located

between the core baffle and core

barrel regions were also explicitly

included in the model. The water

temperatures and coolant density in

the reactor core and downcomer

regions of the reactor were considered

to be representative of full power

operating conditions (1723.5 MWth).

The reactor core was considered as

a homogeneous mixture of fuel,

cladding, water and miscellaneous

core structures such as fuel assembly

grids, and guide tubes.

A section view of the axial geometry

is shown in (Figure 4). The

model extends radially from the

centerline of the reactor core to a

location inside the primary biological

shield. The model includes the axial

geometry from four feet below to

six feet above the active fuel region.

The SORCERY [17] computer code

was used to prepare a fixed distributed

source for the RAPTOR-M3G

transport calculations. This code

prepares a fixed distributed source in

X-Y-Z or R-θ-Z discrete ordinates

transport theory code space mesh.

Given initial U-235 enrichments

and assembly burnup data, SORCERY

properly accounts for the fission


Decommissioning and Waste Management

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Order Capsule ID Location (Octant) Irradiation History Remarks


1 st V 257° (13°) Cycle 1 Withdrawn for Test

2 nd T 67° (23°) Cycles 1-5 Withdrawn for Test

3 rd S 57° (33°) Cycles 1-6 Withdrawn for Test

4 th R 77° (13°) Cycles 1-8 Withdrawn for Test

5 th P 247° (23°) Cycles 1-17 Withdrawn for Test

6 th N

| Table 3

Locations and irradiation history of six surveillance capsules.

237° (33°) Cycles 1-21 Withdrawn for Store

257° (13°) Cycles 28-30 Withdrawn for Test

| Figure 5

Surveillance capsule diagram showing the location of specimens and dosimeters.

| Figure 6

Specific activities considering operation history compared with traditional method for 1 st surveillance capsule V.

| Figure 7

Specific activities considering operation history compared with traditional method for 2 nd surveillance capsule T.

Decommissioning and Waste Management

Error Reduction in Radioactivity Calculation for Retired Nuclear Power Plant Considering Detailed Plant-specific Operation History ı Young Jae Maeng and Chan Hyeong Kim

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July

of U-235, U-238, Pu-239, Pu-240,

Pu-241, and Pu-242. The radial

core burnup distributions, assembly

spe cific initial enrichments, and

relative axial power distributions

were obtained from the corresponding

cycle- specific Nuclear Design


Neutron dosimeter measurements

in surveillance capsules

During the service life of the retired

nuclear power plant, a reactor vessel

surveillance program involving six

surveillance capsules located between

the reactor core and reactor pressure

vessel was implemented to monitor

the integrity of the vessel according to

Final Safety Analysis Report (FSAR)

[18]. The irradiation history of six

surveillance capsules is shown in

(Table 3).

The neutron dosimetry sensors

were contained in the capsules; these

sensors can provide measurement

results at the surveillance capsule

locations. The surveillance capsule

was designed such that neutron

dosimeter wires were positioned at

five locations in the capsule, as in the

| Figure 8

Specific activities considering operation history compared with traditional method for 3 rd surveillance capsule S.

original design. The dosimeter wires

were supplied by Westinghouse and

included iron, nickel, copper, and

aluminum cobalt (0.15 % cobalt)

shielded with cadmium tubing. The

dosimeter wires were inserted into

holes drilled in the spacers and were

sealed in the spacers with press-fitting

plugs in the holes. The five dosimeter

monitor spacers containing the

dosimeter wires were numbered

sequentially from #1 through #5; the

contents of each spacer are shown in

(Figure 5). The neutron dosimetry

sensors were made of pure material.


| Figure 9

Specific activities considering operation history compared with traditional method for 4 th surveillance capsule R.

| Figure 10

Specific activities considering operation history compared with traditional method for 5 th surveillance capsule P.

| Figure 11

Specific activities considering operation history for 6 th surveillance capsule N.

Decommissioning and Waste Management

Error Reduction in Radioactivity Calculation for Retired Nuclear Power Plant Considering Detailed Plant-specific Operation History ı Young Jae Maeng and Chan Hyeong Kim

atw Vol. 66 (2021) | Issue 4 ı July












operation history

(diff. vs meas.)


(diff. vs meas.)

Capsule V

63 Cu(n,α) 60 Co 54 Fe(n,p) 54 Mn 58 Ni(n,p) 58 Co













measurement 6.040E+04 2.630E+06 4.720E+07

operation history

(diff. vs meas.)


(diff. vs meas.)

Capsule T

63 Cu(n,α) 60 Co 54 Fe(n,p) 54 Mn 58 Ni(n,p) 58 Co













measurement 1.320E+05 2.700E+06 3.750E+07

operation history

(diff. vs meas.)


(diff. vs meas.)

Capsule S

63 Cu(n,α) 60 Co 54 Fe(n,p) 54 Mn 58 Ni(n,p) 58 Co













measurement 1.130E+05 1.600E+06 5.000E+06

operation history

(diff. vs meas.)


(diff. vs meas.)

Capsule R

63 Cu(n,α) 60 Co 54 Fe(n,p) 54 Mn 58 Ni(n,p) 58 Co













measurement 2.160E+05 3.000E+06 3.390E+07

operation history

(diff. vs meas.)


(diff. vs meas.)

Capsule P

63 Cu(n,α) 60 Co 54 Fe(n,p) 54 Mn 58 Ni(n,p) 58 Co













measurement 1.985E+05 1.940E+06 7.140E+06

| Table 4

Specific activities comparison for product nuclides between measurement and calculation for dosimeters

in surveillance capsules.



operation history

(diff. vs meas.)


(diff. vs meas.)

Capsule N

63 Cu(n,α) 60 Co 54 Fe(n,p) 54 Mn 58 Ni(n,p) 58 Co







- - -

measurement 1.545E+05 3.328E+06 5.640E+07

| Table 5

Specific activities comparison for product nuclides between measurement and calculation for dosimeters

in surveillance capsule N.

Thus, there were no effects of sensor

impurity when the activity was

measured. Three reactions of interest

(copper, iron, nickel) were selected to

verify the calculation results.

To measure the activity, a high

purity germanium (HPGe) gammaray

spectroscope (detector model

GC2520) with a pulse height analyzer

(DSA-1000) and data processor

( GENIE-2000 version 3.4) was used

because of the high resolution of

the semi-conductor detector. All

measurements were performed at

-190 °C because a germanium (Ge)

semi­ conductor is activated at the

tem perature of liquid nitrogen. To

prepare the sample for measurement,

the sample was immersed in a nitric

acid solution for several seconds to

remove the oxide film, and was then

rinsed with acetone; the weight and

activity of the sample were accurately


The activity results measured by

neutron dosimetry sensors in six

surveillance capsules are provided in

Reference [19]. These measured

activities are used to verify the method

in this study.


Based on calculation considering

operation history and neutron flux

level, the activities were produced

through RAPTOR-M3G transport

code for φ full j in Eq. (5) and monthly

relative reactor thermal power for P i

in (Figure 1).

The difference in the traditional

activity calculation and the activity

calculation introduced in this study

considering operation history was

determined, as shown in (Figure 6 –

10). The relative error between

the two method