A five-year project to dismantle the Ulysse experimental nuclear reactor at the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission’s (CEA) Saclay nuclear research site near Paris has been completed, according to an Orano press release on June 22. Orano was contracted to decommission the low-power research and training reactor.
Ulysse mainly operated for teaching and continuing education purposes by the French National Institute for Nuclear Science and Technology until it was shut down in 2007. According to Orano, the completion of dismantling was in line with the schedule set in 2014 by the French Nuclear Safety Authority and now paves the way for the administrative decommissioning of the facility.
The work: Following the selection of STMI (now Orano Dismantling and Services) by CEA in 2014, phase one of the reactor’s decommissioning began in January 2015 with the dismantling of Ulysse’s air and water networks, along with removal of the engineering works around the reactor core. Dismantling of the reactor’s nuclear components, including the cutting of equipment and the concrete block shielding assembly in the reactor core, was completed in 2019, while the final phase of cleanup and site verification was completed this year. According to Orano, decommissioning of the reactor generated 512 metric tons of conventional waste and 226 metric tons of very low-level waste.
Built in 1961, Ulysse operated at a thermal power of 100 kW and was moderated by water and reflected by graphite. An Argonaut-type reactor designed by Argonne National Laboratory (Argonne Nuclear Assembly for University Training), Ulysse was powered using uranium fuel enriched between 20 and 90 percent.
What they’re saying: Alain Vandercruyssen, senior executive vice president of Orano DS, said: “The timely completion of this project underscores both the determination of the teams on the ground to meet the commitments undertaken and the good coordination with CEA. Congratulations to all those who contributed to this achievement, which extends our group’s experience in dismantling.”