Deconstruction of the Mühleberg nuclear power plant – How do you dispose of an entire nuclear power plant? – Knowledge


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Experts have been dismantling the Mühleberg nuclear power plant for a year. Radioactive parts are currently being sawn up – under water. A tour of what is probably the most complex construction site in Switzerland.

360° video from the nuclear reactor

If you enter the Mühleberg nuclear power plant as a visitor, you first have to go through several security checkpoints. In order to get anywhere near the nuclear reactor, the personal fingerprint is checked several times. You also carry a dosimeter with you, which sounds an alarm if the radiation enters a dangerous area.

Tons of material removed

One person who goes through this procedure every day is Stefan Klute. He is responsible for the demolition of Mühleberg. A Herculean task. How does he do it? “The nuclear power plant is literally being sawn up,” the engineer puts the question in a nutshell.

Legend:

Stefan Klute manages what is probably the largest and most complex construction site in Switzerland: the dismantling of the Mühleberg nuclear power plant.

SRF

Piece by piece, the nuclear power plant with its 17,000 tons of material is gutted. “We have to touch each part at least five times, decontaminate it, measure it again and then dispose of it. That’s why the whole thing takes so long,” explains Klute.

According to the schedule, it will take ten years for the nuclear power plant to be freed from all radioactive substances. By 2034 all buildings are said to have disappeared.

The costs for dismantling, disposal and deep geological disposal are estimated at three billion Swiss francs.

Highest safety precautions

Inside the reactor building, workers wear protective yellow clothing that is left behind after leaving the building. A safety measure in case they had come into contact with radioactivity.

Klute shows the storage pool where the highly active fuel rods are stored under a thick layer of water. “The water protects against the dangerous radiation,” assures the engineer, who has already scrapped a number of nuclear power plants in Germany. The fuel rods were removed from the reactor last year and are now cooling down in a self-sufficiently cooled pool.

sawing under water

Right next to it is the open nuclear reactor. Here, too, a layer of water protects against the deadly radiation. The hydrogen atoms slow down the radiation. Every meter of water reduces radiation by a factor of 1000.

a machine fishes out sticks in a round pool of water

Legend:

It’s still an exercise: lifting and sawing up the steam dryer will take place in a few weeks.

SRF

Then suddenly a loud warning tone sounds. The lifting crane starts moving and drives over the reactor. “Preparations for the dismantling of the core installations are currently taking place,” explains Klute. The so-called steam dryer, a machine through which the hot steam flowed before it was directed to the turbine, is to be sawed up under water. “We’re talking about highly radioactive material here, which is why the work is also taking place under water.”

Klute emphasizes that all work is remote-controlled and takes place under strict safety precautions. “It’s normal sawing technology that has been adapted for underwater use. When working, every movement has to be right.”

How safe is the reactor?

Klute and his team planned this dismantling work on the open reactor for years. “The risk potential has gone down massively. There is no longer any temperature or pressure in the plant,” explains Klute and assures us that the open reactor is also safe from plane crashes and earthquakes.

The shrill warning tone sounds again. The lifting crane is moved into position and lowered onto the open reactor vessel. In the control room, specialists monitor the images from the underwater cameras.

In a newspaper interview, Klute once described his work as an engineer’s dream. “It’s the diversity. Dealing with a hazardous substance and the complexity of all the cogs interacting». After two hours in the reactor building, the tour comes to an end. When measuring in the lock, the computer voice says: “No contamination”.

Note: In the 360° video, Tobias Müller speaks of “evaporator”, the term “steam dryer” would be correct at this point.

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