Washing machines

Laundry is a key part of decommissioning, on par with deconstruction of the reactor buildings

At Danish Decommissioning we have our own laundry, and while it's a luxury to come in to freshly laundered clothes, it's about much more than comfort

Just15 meters, as the crow flies, from Denmark's largest reactor building ever, lies a smaller, inconspicuous building.

A building divided into several rooms, and inside one of these is a function that most people wouldn't associate with decommissioning. Here, soap and water are the tools of choice, rather than saw blades and blow lances.

The history of the laundry
The laundry has always been a part of Risø, and if you go through the archives, you can read about the time in 1991 when they washed more than 80 tons of laundry a year. At that time, however, it was Risø's entire laundry, and thus the employees here supported Risø's approx. 1,000 employees.

Since then, the laundry has moved location, from the waste treatment plant near Risø's wastewater treatment plant to its current location close to the distillation plant, where all the active wastewater is treated.
This move was made because work on the decommissioning of the waste treatment plant was about to begin, and thus it was no longer possible to keep the laundry in the same building.

It has also been reduced in size somewhat, and is now operated by a single employee, as opposed to several full-time employees in the past.

Today, the primary task of the laundry is to wash the work clothes of the 35 craftsmen who work at Danish Decommissioning. Work clothes that they change into every morning when they arrive and return for washing at the end of each workday.

In addition, there are countless towels and other materials, such as coveralls, that go through the laundry on a weekly basis.

The laundry secures against contamination
Today, Preben is in charge of the laundry, a role he has held for six months.

Thus, it is also Preben who keeps track of which clothes need which degrees, dries the clothes, folds the clothes and packs them so they can find their way back to their place. Here, the laundry does not differ significantly from many others, but there are two things that distinguish DD's laundry from most.

After Preben has washed the clothes, he checks the clothes for radioactive contamination on a special plate where each piece of clothing is turned and rotated so that all fibers are measured. If there is contamination on the garment, it has to be washed again, perhaps at a higher temperature this time. And if it's impossible to get it clean, the garment must be disposed of as active waste.

Contamination measurement plateAnd the washing temperature is not unimportant either, because the laundry has a special room for "active washing". These are the work clothes, such as fabric coveralls, that are suspected of being contaminated. Here, the clothes are given a regular boil wash of more than 90°C, simply to ensure that any contamination doesn't stick to the garments, making them reusable.

This also means that Preben regularly checks himself, for example after each entry/exit for "active" washing.

Active wash inputWhat about the water?
One final detail that sets the laundromat at Danish Decommissioning apart from most others is the water.
The water pumped into the washing machines is demineralized primarily to avoid limescale, which is undesirable in active wastewater as it leaves deposits that reduce the efficiency of subsequent processes, but also to save on soap.

And when the water is pumped out again, there are many steps before it finds its final path to the sewage system, as the 'active' water from the active wash has to pass several 'obstacles' such as coarse filters, pipes, tanks and distillation tanks before some of it can finally be discharged.

It is important to understand that the term active in this case refers to potentially active, i.e. clothes or other items to be washed that come from an area where they could potentially have been contaminated with radioactive material. However, this is often not the case.

All active water at Risø is collected in a couple of large storage tanks, including the active water from the laundry, which is then pumped to a treatment tank before passing through a distillation plant that removes contamination from the majority of the active water.

All the activity is now collected in a small amount of concentrate, while the rest of the water, which makes up the majority of the distilled volume, is a contamination-free distillate. The distillate is checked for any residual activity and the test results will show if the distillate can be released into the sewer system.

Storage tanksAlways below the limit values
Every six months, Danish Decommissioning's laboratory unit prepares a report on the emissions from Danish Decommissioning's facilities. This includes the results of the aforementioned test results, of which the active water from the laundry is a part.

A report sent to the nuclear regulatory authorities, which in the entire lifetime of Danish Decommissioning has never detected exceedances of the limits for the discharge of radioactive material.

From the laundry to the shelves
Back at the laundry, the freshly washed clothes are folded and sized, and then packed into blue boxes that are picked up every week.

Here, Preben gets help transporting the clothes around the right facilities and to the right places, and then the clothes are once again ready for another tour of duty at the Danish Decommissioning Authority's facilities.

Blue boxes of laundry

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