NV5 was asked to prepare a decommissioning cost estimate for a non-power nuclear reactor used for student research purposes as well as for local industrial applications. Although the school was not planning to decommission its reactor, periodic cost estimates are required by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to ensure research reactor licensees have adequate funds available for their eventual decommissioning. The school also requested the updated cost estimate to ensure complete documentation of the reactor’s decades-long historical data and records, on which such cost estimates are partially based.
Most research reactors in the United States are located at colleges and universities.
First, NV5 certified health physicists reviewed the school’s records to assess the current radiological status and radioactive material inventory of the reactor. We also reviewed records of any historical radiological releases and assessed which areas of the building might eventually need to be disposed of as radioactive waste. Secondly, we verified the school’s calculations of the radiation levels and the current volume of their radioactive waste. We then performed a cost benefit analysis of the two basic decommissioning options permitted by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Costs we considered included those for transporting the waste to one of two U.S. disposal facilities, maintaining and monitoring the radioactive waste in place, and the cost of building demolition. Finally, we prepared a draft cost estimate report for the school’s review and comment, and, after incorporating their comments, delivered the final report for presentation to the school’s board of directors.
The entire project, from proposal to final deliverable, was completed within the school’s required timeframe of two months, including an overlapping school closure for the winter holidays. NV5 staff involved in this project were two certified health physicists, one senior health physicist, and one technical editor.