Decommissioning, a necessary step in preparing the future of nuclear energy

Decommissioning is a normal stage in the life of a nuclear power plant. EDF takes full technical and financial responsibility for this stage. Nine reactors are currently being decommissioned within EDF’s nuclear fleet in France.

©EDF - Olivier Touron

Decommissioning in three stages

EDF has a Decommissioning and Environmental Engineering Centre (CIDEN) with a staff of 600 to handle decommissioning. The centre serves as project manager for all power plant decommissioning operations.       

Currently nine reactors have been shut down and are being decommissioned: Brennilis (in french), Bugey 1 (in french), Chinon (in french) A1, A2 and A3, Chooz A, Creys-Malville (in french), Saint-Laurent (in french) A1 and A2.    

For each reactor, the start of operations requires authorisation by ministerial decree following examination by the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) and a public inquiry conducted among the local community.       

Decommissioning takes place in three phases:       

  • Phase 1. Shutdown of the power plant → Unloading of the fuel and emptying of the circuits, followed by dismantling and shutdown of non-nuclear installations
  • Phase 2. Partial decommissioning → Dismantling of the equipment and buildings, with the exception of the reactor building, introduction of monitoring
  • Phase 3. Total decommissioning → Dismantling of the reactor building, materials and equipment that are still radioactive

In total, 99.9% of the radioactivity of dismantled sites is removed following withdrawal of the nuclear fuel and emptying of the circuits in Phase 1

The first two phases are carried out within 10 years of the date when power generation was discontinued. The third takes about 10 years. Once dismantling has been completed, the site returns to its natural radioactivity level. Monitoring is no longer needed and the site can be used again.

Capabilities and expertise

EDF has opted for immediate decommissioning, i.e. performing all operations without delay, with a view to achieving two things: 

  • Not leaving the burden of decommissioning to future generations
  • Taking advantage of the capabilities and expertise of today’s employees, who took part in operating the power plants that have now been shut down

EDF has built on its experience in operating nuclear power plants and on best practice around the world to develop processes and methods for protecting the public, EDF employees and the environment. 

EDF Group assumes sole financial responsibility for decommissioning power plants. The cost is factored into operation from the start and included in the price of the kilowatt-hour. It is re-assessed every three years to take account of changing technical and financial assumptions, as required by law. 

To mitigate the economic impact of decommissioning on the regions concerned, EDF provides support measures and helps create new business activities. The decommissioned sites can become new power plants. Decommissioning makes it possible to rebuild capacity and prepare the region’s energy future.