Dismantling: Orano's global strenghts

Dismantling nuclear power plants is a lengthy process that takes operators far from their core business. Orano pulls together the specific expertise, know-how and technology required for reliable dismantling projects while also keeping costs and risks under control.
TA : Dismantling operations, Processing plant of used fuel, Orano la Hague, France

Reactor dismantling

For more than 40 years, Orano has been involved in some 160 D&D (Decommissioning and Dismantling) projects including 64 nuclear power plants worldwide. By exporting its experience, the group aims to work with its customers as they deal with the major industrial challenge of dismantling nuclear reactors and rehabilitating sites worldwide, including Germany, the United States, United Kingdom and Japan.

Reactor dismantling

The strength of Orano’s integrated model

Over the past five decades, Orano has demonstrated its ability to innovate, to develop the technological bricks, especially cutting up the reactor vessel internals and vessels, and dismantling the primary circuit all of which implies optimum waste management. By combining these bricks, the group has designed integrated solutions to deal with the most complex situations and comply with the most stringent safety requirements. This integrated model clearly defines Orano on this market. It provides services across all stages in the dismantling process as well as solid expertise for project management and supervising complex interfaces. This approach results in increased performance and reduced costs for operators.

From cutting up to managing spent fuel

Germany. After the German government’s decision to abandon nuclear power, reactor dismantling will generate significant business over the coming years, with the majority of contracts already being allocated. The technical solution proposed by Orano based on cutting up the vessel internals has been tried and tested to the point that it is now a real business model. This model is now used by a new subsidiary – Orano Decommissioning & Services GmbH – which won two significant contracts in 2017 thanks to this expertise.
Orano also offers solutions for the management of spent fuel, which is the first and most delicate stage in reactor decommissioning. These comprehensive and flexible solutions can be adapted to suit all needs, from unloading to final storage: packaging, transfer, transport, temporary storage, recycling and through to final storage.

Global dismantling

United States. With a dozen reactors shut down, the North American market offers significant potential for the dismantling business. Private generating companies approach Orano because of its expertise in providing comprehensive dismantling services.

In February 2017, Orano and American demolition specialists NorthStar created a new joint decommissioning company called Accelerated Decommissioning Partners (ADP), which plans to acquire the complete and permanent ownership of decommissioning assets including the spent nuclear fuel. ADP aims to provide a turnkey final decommissioning solution to the initial operator and provide technological, regulatory and financial solutions in order to reduce project time spans and costs.

By optimising dismantling strategies in this way, the decommissioning and decontamination of American nuclear power plants will be undertaken within five years following their closure.

ADP will also introduce new tools for the reactor’s internal segmentation while at the same time transferring the spent fuel using innovative dry storage technology (NUHOMS© Orano). This technology includes remotely operated underwater tools to segment the reactor parts and so improve waste package loading to comply with the regulatory requirements for transport and removal from the site.

Thanks to this expertise, in 2017, Orano won the contract to dismantle the vessel internals of the Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor as the subcontractor of NorthStar.

Dismantling fuel cycle facilities

Orano’s unique expertise in designing, operating, shutting down and decommissioning nuclear sites in France is particularly evident at the Cadarache, Pierrelatte, Marcoule and the La Hague UP2-400 plants. On this market for decommissioning nuclear fuel cycle facilities, the operations require a high degree of technical expertise given the age of the plants (over 30 years).

The operations must also take into account each country’s specific legislation. In the United States, Orano operates through its subsidiaries Orano Federal Services (AFS) and Orano Nuclear Materials (ANM).

In the United Kingdom, the group is a reference partner for the decommissioning operations at the Sellafield site (see close-up 1). At Fukushima in Japan, Orano has been contracted for the water treatment system ahead of the decommissioning stages and Fuel Debris Removal (FDR) in partnership with MHI (see close-up 2).

Zoom 1 : United Kingdom

Orano, reference partner for Sellafield site:

Since 2009, five to ten Orano experts have been working at the Sellafield site in north-western England. They work with the Sellafield Ltd teams who need to continue and speed up the transformation of their business from production to facility dismantling.

This is a major challenge for Europe’s largest nuclear site, as it has almost one thousands facilities including seven nuclear reactors – all of which are in the process of being decommissioned – three reprocessing plants of which two are still in operation, a MOX fuel production plant – shutdown since 2011 – as well as the many nuclear waste storage silos and pools, which are among the oldest in the world.

The relationship of trust built up over the past few years with Sellafield, which consumes more than 60% of the decommissioning budget in United Kingdom, has led to Orano being recognised as a partner by all British stakeholders and decision makers, including the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, which is in charge of all decommissioning programs, and of course the British government.


Zoom 2 : Japan

Strategic assistance at the Fukushima site:

For more than fifty years, Orano has been building up unique experience in conducting operations in inaccessible nuclear zones. Remote-operated work is, for example, what the teams at La Hague and MELOX do every day. Introducing and operating robotic resources sits at the heart of the decommissioning projects for the former Pierrelatte, Cadarache, Marcoule and La Hague UP2-400 plants. All nuclear industry stakeholders worldwide are aware of this recognised expertise, which is of particular interest to Japan with which Orano has had a long and close relationship for forty years.

Orano’s post emergency expertise:

Orano started working with the Fukushima teams right from the very first days following the catastrophe and has helped stabilise the situation. In order to emphasise its capacity for assistance, Orano created a joint venture with the Japanese company ATOX called ANADEC in which the two pooled their expertise: Orano’s know-how and technological excellence combined with ATOX’s strong local presence and management of operations in the field.

Orano is therefore in daily contact with all parties responsible for the Fukushima programme – the operator, the main industrial groups, public authorities and the government – whether as a major international stakeholder in the nuclear industry or through ANADEC operating in the field.

Dry extraction of fuel debris from the reactor core :

“ Today, the focus is mainly on extracting the fuel debris from the cores of reactors 1 to 3. We have had a very positive response to partial initial decisions based on the use of a dry extraction solution from the side, which is precisely the solution that we have been developing with our partner MHI. If the decision is finalised, Orano will, in light of its expertise, be at the heart of the world’s most delicate nuclear project. “

Arnaud Gay, Executive VP International Operations
The project will include a study, characterisation and recovery operation phases. Work could get underway as early as 2018 and last for several years, no doubt beyond 2030.

New successes for Orano


Under a contract signed in July 2017 with Vattenfall GmbH, the consortium ORANO-EWN will dismantle and package the reactor vessel’s internals for the Krümmel and Brunsbüttel nuclear reactors. Work is scheduled for completion in 2022. Cutting and packaging the core waste and vessel internals will be conducted underwater. Tried-and-tested technology and a specialist robot will be used to improve efficiency and reduce operation time.

In October 2017, EnBW selected the Orano Decommissioning and Services GmbH-EWN consortium to dismantle the reactor internals at the Philippsburg II and Neckarwestheim II nuclear reactors. The group will dismantle the vessel internals, segment them and package them together with the reactor core waste. The consortium is working on a waste sampling and characterisation process to maximise the segmentation and packaging operations.

These latter two successes were achieved in 2017 following international competitions, thanks to the work conducted over the past few years by Orano’s Research and Development Department. The use of remote-controlled equipment and semi-automated processes has led to us acquiring a leading position on this extremely competitive market.


United States

In July 2017, Orano signed a contract with NorthStar, which specialises in decontamination and deconstruction of nuclear facilities in United States. This contract involves cutting up and packaging the vessel and vessel internals of the Vermont Yankee, Vermont, boiling water reactor. Orano will also transport the final waste component packages to a designated storage site.

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