Brennilis power plant on the road to total dismantling

The Brennilis power plant in the French region of Brittany, the only gas-cooled heavy water reactor built in France, has received authorisation to begin its total dismantling. The first two phases of partial dismantling were completed in 2005, 20 years after the reactor was shut down.

38 years after it was shut down, the Brennilis power station in the Monts d’Arrée region of Brittany will be able to begin its third and final phase of decommissioning. On 26 September 2023, in the Official Journal, the text allowing EDF to carry out “dismantling operations on basic nuclear installation no. 162, known as EL4-D, an equipment storage facility at the Monts d’Arrée-EL 4 nuclear power plant” was published. This important announcement will enable the reactor block to be dismantled, aiming to ” return to green”.

Cédric Lewandowski, Group Senior Executive Vice-President, Nuclear and Thermal at EDF, explains on Linkedin: “Shut down since 1985, the Brennilis nuclear power plant in central Brittany is about to embark on the final phase of its decommissioning. On 26 September 2023, the site obtained the decree for complete dismantling, signed by the Minister for Energy Transition, enabling the dismantling of the reactor block, the clean-up of the civil engineering, the dismantling of the reactor containment, and the final rehabilitation of the site to be launched”.

A reactor unique in France

He adds: “The final dismantling of Brennilis is a complex operation. This prototype, unique in France, uses Heavy Water Reactor technology and is contained in a concrete cube measuring 20 metres on each side and 1.5 metres thick. Inside, the equipment to be dismantled is tightly packed into a tiny space. To carry out this work on time and guarantee personnel protection, EDF’s Decommissioning and Waste Projects Division (DP2D) is working with its industrial partners on innovative remote operation and robotics solutions.

This is the start of a 15-year phase for this project, which is unique in France. This reactor, commissioned in 1966, is the only model of its type in the country. It is a 75 MW gas-cooled heavy water reactor using natural uranium. This technology was abandoned in favour of the more reliable and efficient pressurised water reactors.

Although the first two decommissioning phases were completed in 2005, the site went through a long series of stop-and-go operations until 2023, before the final decommissioning phase could begin. The site is also known to have been the target of two bomb attacks in 1975 and 1979 by the Front de Libération de la Bretagne (FLB). The explosions damaged equipment but had no radiological consequences. ■

Ludovic Dupin (Sfen)

Copyright: Brennilis power plant in 2014 – ©FredTanneau/AFP