Permanent closure of the JEEP II research reactor at Kjeller

Publisert: 25. April 2019

Forskningsreaktoren JEEP II på Kjeller. Foto Mona L. Ramstad.

JEEP II is Norway’s last reactor in operation. The reactor has been in operation since 1967 and has been used by researchers nationally and internationally within physics, materials, cancer medicine and renewable energy, as well as nuclear disarmament. The JEEP II reactor has been stopped since December 2018 for scheduled maintenance and control. IFE’s board of directors decided on April 25th to permanently close operations at the reactor, based on an overall technical and economical assessment.

IFE has carried out a comprehensive and long-term control program and review of the reactor. In January, corrosion was found on several components that are important for the safety of the reactor.

IFE and external experts have analysed the findings and scope of the repair. The conclusion is that the repair will require a long-term shutdown of the reactor with considerable repair costs in excess of IFE’s financial capabilities. The reactor is currently shut down and in a safe condition, with fuel and heavy water removed, and as such does not pose any danger to health, environment or safety.

– The board of directors have decided, based on an overall assessment, that the reactor will not be restarted. IFE will consequently initiate work to prepare the decommissioning of the reactor. IFE cannot count on support from the Norwegian state to cover repairs, and as a self-owned foundation, cannot assume such great financial risk, says chairman Olav Fjell.

Board resolution:

“The Norwegian state contributes with funding for waste management and decommissioning, but potential repair and further operation of the JEEP II reactor will be IFE’s responsibility, and IFE cannot count on government support for this. IFE does not have the resources to bear the risk of repair itself. The board has therefore decided not to resume operations at the JEEP II reactor. ”

The closure of the JEEP II reactor at Kjeller has limited consequences for IFE’s research. IFE is one of Norway’s largest research institutes with strong, international research groups in the fields of energy, health, digitalisation and nuclear technology.

– The reactor at Kjeller has, for more than 50 years, contributed to outstanding research at IFE, nationally and internationally. The reactor has been a unique tool for material research and nanoscience, which has been useful to develop sustainable solutions for renewable energy and energy storage such as batteries and hydrogen. It has contributed to considerable value creation based on research, development of new companies, and the development of cancer drugs” says Nils Morten Huseby, CEO of IFE.

IFE sees many opportunities to continue with world-class research and further development within for instance radiopharmaceuticals.

– IFE will continue to focus on research within energy, digitalisation, nuclear technology and health. There are several options for IFE to continue nuclear research without the reactor at Kjeller. Most of IFE’s research does not depend on the reactor and will continue as before, says Huseby.

Ending the national nuclear program

In June 2018 it was decided that the research reactor in Halden had to be shut down after 60 years of operation. Thus, both Norwegian nuclear reactors are now closed and Norway will enter into a new era with decommissioning of the national nuclear program which was started in 1948. The Norwegian State established Norwegian Nuclear Decommissioning (NND) as a state agency responsible for nuclear decommissioning in 2018, and NND will eventually take over the responsibility for all nuclear facilities and their removal. IFE employees have a unique expertise and experience that is important for this work. The operation to remove the nuclear facilities and handle Norway’s nuclear waste is extremely complex and will be carried out over several decades. IFE and NND work closely together to assure a smooth transition and transfer of IFE’s nuclear facilities and expertise to NND.

The closure of the reactor at Kjeller will lead to changed competence requirements and a reduction in the number of employees. IFE will work to clarify the scope of the workforce reduction over the next few weeks.