Nuclear Power

16 Feb 2023

Pallas Construction Permit Granted

16 Feb 2023  by   

A construction licence has been granted by the Authority for Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection (ANVS) for the Pallas research reactor in Petten, the Netherlands. The new reactor will replace the existing High Flux Reactor (HFR).

How the Pallas reactor building could look (Image: ANVS)

The Foundation Preparation Pallas-reactor applied in June 2022 to ANVS for a permit under the Nuclear Energy Act to construct and operate the Pallas reactor. As part of the application, an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Safety Report were also submitted. The EIA systematically and objectively describes all the environmental consequences of the reactor and several alternatives to these, while the Safety Report describes, among other things, how the installation works: from the design and operation of the cooling pipes and ventilation systems, to how accident situations will be dealt with.

The foundation - which is responsible for obtaining a licensable design, obtaining private investors and constructing and operating the Pallas reactor - also applied to the Rijkswaterstaat (RWS) for a permit under the Water Act for the intake of cooling water from the North Holland Canal and the discharge of cooling water into the North Sea.

ANVS has now granted the construction licence for Pallas. The licence becomes valid on 31 March pending any appeals.

"It is the first time in decades that a permit has been granted in the Netherlands for the construction of a new nuclear reactor," ANVS noted.

"Our permit issuers and lawyers have worked hard on the assessment of the Pallas permit application," said ANVS board member Marco Brugmans. "Including the preliminary consultations about the permit requirements, it was a process of many years. Pallas had to demonstrate extensively that the reactor can run safely if it is built in this way. Now that all the necessary steps, including public participation, have been completed, we will grant the construction permit and we will ensure that Pallas adheres to the regulations we have set."

The RWS has also granted the licence for the reactor's cooling water.

"With these permits coming into effect, the permit under the Environmental Law (General Provisions) Act for the construction of the buildings and cooling water pipes will also come into force," the Pallas foundation said.

ANVS noted that the permit it has now issued only means that the Pallas reactor may be built. "In order to use the reactor in the future, a permit for 'commissioning' is still required," it said. "Before we grant it, there is another period of [public] participation. This will probably be in 2028."

The 45 MW HFR started operating in September 1960, since when its use has largely shifted from nuclear materials testing to fundamental research and the production of medical radioisotopes. The reactor - operated by NRG on behalf of the European Union's Joint Research Centre - has for a long time supplied about 60% of Europe's and 30% of the world's use of medical radioactive sources.

Pallas will be of the "tank-in-pool" type, with a thermal power of around 55 MW, and able to deploy its neutron flux more efficiently and effectively than the HFR.

The Dutch government has yet to make a final decision on constructing the Pallas reactor.

Funding has been allocated in the coming years for the construction of the reactor, Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport Ernst Kuipers announced in September. He said the ministry was reserving EUR30 million (USD30 million) for the project in 2022 and EUR129 million per year from 2023.

The Pallas foundation noted the decision on funding for the overall Pallas programme is currently being debated by the government and is expected to be made this year. The Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport has instructed Pallas to continue with project preparations to avoid unnecessary delays, it added. "This means that preparations for the realisation of the construction pit will continue pending a final funding decision from the Dutch government".

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