On 10 December 2019, EDF and Veolia, through their respective subsidiaries Cyclife Holding and Asteralis, have announced the creation of a joint entity – Graphitech – in response to the challenges of decommissioning nuclear reactors that incorporate graphite technology.

The dismantling of the graphite reactors is complex because of their design (stacking of graphite layers inside the reactor) and the volume of materials to be evacuated. Globally, only two reactors of small power graphite technology have been dismantled to date. Graphitech will be responsible for the technological development and engineering studies required in preparation for decommissioning nuclear reactors that use graphite technology, around 60 such reactors in the world, Graphitech will thus be ready to meet the needs of France, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Lithuania and Japan.

Combining EDF’s nuclear industry expertise and decommissioning engineering know-how with Veolia’s nuclear-environment robotics capability, to enable the design of specialized machinery and long-distance intervention platforms for decommissioning, Graphitech will use its expertise to:

  • - develop remote-operation tools to break up complex, large-scale concrete and metal structures, and tools to extract activated graphite bricks and piles;
  • - design systems and articulated arms to enable deployment of these tools.
Graphitech’s first objective will be to provide EDF with an optimized scenario for decommissioning the Chinon A2 reactor in 2028 and to offer a testing program to evaluate the technological solutions needed to complete the operation. This program will begin in 2022 with a development and qualification phase using full-scale models to prepare the remote-operation tools to be used in decommissioning the Chinon reactor. The feedback from this pioneering operation will then be used with other reactors in France and around the world. Dismantling graphite reactors is complex, due to their design (stacks of graphite layers inside the reactor) and the volume of material to be removed. Worldwide, just two small-scale graphite reactors have been decommissioned to date.