VTT and Fortum join forces to decommission a research reactor and laboratory

Tutkimusreaktorin sydän

VTT and Fortum have agreed on a partnership to decommission VTT’s FIR 1 research reactor and nuclear power plant construction materials laboratory in Otaniemi, Espoo. The agreement gives VTT access to Fortum's long experience in nuclear power plant operation and nuclear waste management. Fortum will draw up the plans, dismantle the reactor and dispose of any nuclear waste. VTT is responsible for the safety of the reactor, the laboratory and the decommissioning process and for securing any necessary permits.

VTT has already applied to the Finnish Government for permission to decommission the reactor and expects to get the go-ahead before the end of 2020. All of the spent nuclear fuel must be removed from the premises before the reactor can be dismantled. VTT’s primary goal is to return the fuel to the United States, which supplied the fuel in the first place. Another alternative is to use an interim storage facility until a geological disposal site is available in Finland. The dismantling process is scheduled for the years 2022–2023. 

Work on decommissioning the laboratory began in 2019 with the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority’s permission. VTT continues to study nuclear power plant construction materials in its new, state-of-the-art laboratory in the Centre of Nuclear Safety and to support both Finnish and international nuclear power companies on the safe and economical operation of power plants.

The FIR 1 research reactor was commissioned in 1962 and operated until 2015. During its eventful history, it has played a role in, for example, the study of lunar rocks, gold prospecting and cancer treatments and, most importantly, served as a key nuclear energy education and research environment. The reactor will continue to produce valuable information through the dismantling process, and the lessons learnt can help with the decommissioning of Finnish nuclear power plants in the coming decades. 

Know-how in decommissioning is already in demand elsewhere in the world, as many countries have decided to phase out nuclear energy. VTT is also running a separate project called dECOmm, which pools expertise from multiple Finnish companies and aims to establish Finland in the global nuclear power plant decommissioning market.