Horst Tampe, foreman in Lubmin (Greifswald), Germany

«Decommissioning a nuclear power plant is a daunting task.»

Horst Tampe has been working at the Nuclear Power Plant Lubmin since the first days of construction. Today he is responsible for the decommissioning.

"I have been familiar with the Lubmin nuclear power plant since 1973. Working here was my purpose in life. The jobs were popular and the salary was good. We felt safe and weren't afraid of the radiation. I was shocked when it closed down and like most of the employees, I was initially against it. It cost over 4,000 men and women their jobs. All the same, we now provide essential work for the nuclear phase-out. Most of the materials from decommissioning eventually end up in our workshop, where they are dismantled as well as cleaned. A crane can place up to 32 tonnes of building structure in front of one of the two large saws in such a way that it can deal with the geometry of the materials. We crush and clean wherever possible to a size that allows us to place the materials in standardised boxes that, according to the level of radiation, get disposed of. In the end, there will be thousands of such boxes: a nuclear power plant in its individual parts. There are various options to clean the materials: dry abrasive blasting with metal dust can remove the surface, while a high-pressure water jet and a chemical treatment consisting of phosphoric acid and oxalic acid are available for electrochemical decontamination. We can even use ultrasounds. We discuss in our team which method should be used to clean an element. Often it's necessary to use a combination of different cleaning methods. In certain parts of the workshop we have to protect ourselves extremely well while working. Not only from the radiation, but also sometimes from asbestos, for instance, which was used in nuclear power plants because of its fire-retardant properties. We also have to reckon with toxic chemicals. As a result, us employees are not allowed to drink or eat in the work areas of the workshop since radioactive and other hazardous substances could find their way into our bodies through the food. We have to change our clothes when we enter and then change them again we we leave even it's just for a break or to use the loo. As you can see, decommissioning a nuclear power plant is a daunting task."