Nuclear decommissioning is a process, wherein nuclear power plants are retired from service and operating licenses granted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) are terminated. The NRC is a regulatory body that has established regulations and associated guidelines stating the requirements and the process, which a company needs to follow to ensure that the decommissioning is environmentally safe. The decommissioning process aims to reduce the level of residual radioactivity.
This is carried out by dismantling structures, removing contaminated materials to appropriate disposal facilities, storing used nuclear fuel till it can be removed from the site of the nuclear power plant for disposal or safe storage, and releasing the property for other uses. Various companies provide support services for nuclear decommissioning. Companies providing decommissioning services need to take strict measures regarding safety since the area to be decommissioned is under the influence of nuclear radiation. Services provided by companies include dismantling concepts, decommissioning reports, accompanying control, post-operational phase support, and waste package assessment.
More than 110 commercial power reactors, 48 experimental or prototype reactors, over 250 research reactors, and a number of fuel cycle facilities have been retired from operation up to May 2017. Some have been fully dismantled.
Increase in demand for production of electricity compels the nuclear power plants to generate more and more electricity with the same existing number of pressure vessels in the plant. This is seen to create an increasing load on the pressure vessels used in nuclear power plants, which creates a need for refueling the reactors. Therefore, the nuclear power plant has to be decommissioned. This is estimated to create an opportunity for the growth of the nuclear decommissioning services market during the forecast period. After the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident, the Government of Germany enforced measures to shut down its nuclear power plants by 2022. This is expected to boost the nuclear decommissioning services market during the forecast period.
Nuclear power plants generate more than 11% of the world’s electricity to meet base load electricity demand without carbon dioxide emissions. Plans for lifetime extension of power plants in a number of countries are being formulated. Consequently, a number of reactors are likely to run beyond their originally designed lives. This is projected to significantly hinder the nuclear decommissioning services market.
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In terms of type, the nuclear decommissioning services market can be segmented into pressurized water reactor (PWR), boiling water reactor (BWR), gas-cooled reactor (AGR), and others (including light water graphite reactor, pressurized heavy water reactor, and fast neutron reactor). BWR is a widely used reactor in the world. According to the strategy, the nuclear decommissioning services market can be divided into immediate dismantling, deferred dismantling, and entombment. Under immediate dismantling, the dismantling commences after the end of the operation. Under deferred dismantling, which is also known as safe enclosure, the nuclear power plant is locked for about 30 years after the closure of the plant. The dismantling then takes place. Under entombment, the nuclear power plant is completely closed forever.
In terms of geography, the nuclear decommissioning services market can be segmented into North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Latin America and Middle East and Africa. The nuclear decommissioning services market is expected to expand significantly in Europe due to various factors such as stringent government rules and regulations to phase out nuclear power plants. Many nuclear power plants in North America are nearing the phase of decommissioning. This is anticipated to boost the nuclear decommissioning services market in the region in the near future.
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