The Removal, Transportation and Final Treatment and Conditioning of the THETIS Research Reactor Spent Fuel of the University of Ghent (Belgium) Achieved in 2010

Hubert Thierens, Myriam Monsieurs, Vincent De pooter, Luc Noynaert, Patrick Maris, Luc Ooms, Patrick Lewandowski, Johan Braeckman, Karel Strijckmans

Research outputpeer-review


The THETIS research reactor on the site of the Nuclear Sciences Institute of the Ghent University has been in operation from 1967 until December 2003. This light-water moderated graphite-reflected low-enriched uranium pool-type reactor has been used for various purposes e.g. the production of radioisotopes and activation analyses. During the first years its core power was 15 kW. In the early ’70, a core enlargement allowed for operation at typically 150 kW, while the maximum was allowed to be 250 kW. The fuel was 5% enriched uranium cladded with AISI304L stainless steel, with graphite plugs at both ends of the tubes. In order to decommission the reactor, the spent fuel and other nuclear materials present had to be removed from the reactor site. Ghent University entrusted SCK•CEN, the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre, with the study of the further management of the spent fuel. Various options such as reprocessing, intermediate storage awaiting final disposal were investigated. However the characteristics and the small amount of spent fuel (84.64 kg of UO2) made these solutions very expensive. In the meantime ONDRAF/NIRAS, the Belgian radioactive waste management agency, was developing together with Belgoprocess, a solution for final conditioning in 400 liter drums and further intermediate storage of the spent fuel in its nuclear facilities at the BELGOPROCESS site in Dessel. This conditioned waste is foreseen to enter the future geological disposal site after the intermediate storage period only after 2050. Finally SCK•CEN recommended this solution for the back-end of the THETIS spent fuel and Ghent University declared this spent fuel as radioactive waste. Once the feasibility for conditioning and storage was demonstrated, further actions were taken in order to unload the spent fuel out of the reactor and to transport it to the PAMELAinstallation at the Belgoprocess site in Dessel. Finally after receiving all necessary licensing authorisations from the FANC/AFCN, the Belgian nuclear safety authority, the operations started at the reactor site beginning of 2010 and the spent fuel was placed into the intermediate storage building after conditioning at the Belgoprocess site at the end of 2010. The paper will focus on: - the inventarisation and characterization of the spent fuel and other nuclear materials - the operations at Ghent University and Belgoprocess sites - the conclusions drawn from the operations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Conference on Environmental Remediation and Radioactive Waste Management
Subtitle of host publicationASME 2011
PublisherASME - The American Society of Mechanical Engineers
Number of pages8
StatePublished - 17 Aug 2012
Event2011 ASME : 14th International Conference on Environmental Remediation and Radioactive Waste Management - Reims
Duration: 25 Sep 201129 Sep 2011


Conference2011 ASME

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