Case studies and lessons learned

19.5.1 Whiteshell laboratories decommissioning

As discussed above, the Whiteshell Laboratories decommissioning project to date has focused on decontaminating and modifying nuclear facilities, laboratories and the associated service systems and removing redundant buildings to reduce risk and operating costs. The lessons learned associated with the management of the waste already stored on the site and produced during the decommissioning activities arise from three main activities: job planning, physical decommissioning, and maintaining safety through the decommissioning project timeline.

The waste management strategy must be developed in advance, with the flow of waste materials and the required resources identified to ensure that ‘waste material flow’ does not become the critical path, and limit the progress of the physical decommissioning. The process used involved radio­logically screening and segregating the waste at the source. This task can be long and repetitive; therefore, it was found beneficial to rotate workers to enhance training of staff and mitigate human error. To enhance waste mate­rial flow in some situations, a best practice ‘lean manufacturing’ philosophy was applied to the development of the material handling and monitoring process. This planning philosophy had the added benefit of reducing overall costs for the activity, as well as maintaining a high level of worker morale as there were limited bottlenecks in the activity. There is a requirement to ensure the safety of the physical structures within the WL waste manage­ment areas from a variety of perspectives, including upkeep to today’s standards and the development of plans for waste removal and transfer to a long-term waste management facility. Key lessons from the work to date include the importance of records, the need for ongoing geotechnical assess­ment of the area and in-ground structures, and the need for technology for assessment and characterization prior to developing and executing work plans to ensure worker safety throughout any planned waste retrieval. This latter work is in its early stages and interaction with other international groups is assisting with the development of safe work plans.

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