Chernobyl waste processing operations resume

24 August 2022

Radioactive waste processing and disposal activities have resumed for the first time at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant site in Ukraine since the Russian military occupation of the area earlier this year. The first batch of waste from the plant for disposal was transferred on 21 August.

The Chernobyl plant site (Image: SSE ChNPP)

In order to resume a full operation of radioactive waste processing infrastructure, a number of measures were taken to verify the safe and correct operation of the equipment and systems involved in the radioactive waste processing process, according to Illia Shumkov, deputy head of SSE Chernobyl NPP's (SSE ChNPP's) radioactive waste processing department.

"We checked the functional condition of all the equipment used in the technological process of forming a waste package, as well as preparing for and sending the waste packages for disposal," Shumkov said. "In order to restore practical skills, all our personnel involved in waste processing have completed a training course. Training with the last shift was successfully completed on 14 August."

In addition, the Chernobyl plant has negotiated with a supplier of the cements needed for the immobilisation of liquid radioactive waste, and revised a production schedule for delivery of waste packages for disposal.

"We are confident that by the end of 2022 we will fully implement our plans," Shumkov said.

Chernobyl was occupied by Russian forces from 24 February until the end of March, when they withdrew. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development subsequently calculated that damage caused to buildings, equipment and infrastructure will cost at least EUR100 million (USD102 million) to repair.

In May, the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine (SNRIU) suspended the plant's radioactive waste management licences after considering the impact of damage in the exclusion zone resulting from the military occupation, a move ChNPP said had effectively paralysed operations at the site.

On 10 August, SNRIU's Licensing Commission decided to restore SSE ChNPP's licences for decommissioning work at units 1, 2 and 3 of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, operation of the confinement complex and the Shelter facility, and the processing and storage of radioactive waste. It also restored the Central Enterprise for the Management of Radioactive Waste's licences for the construction and operation of storage facilities for the disposal of radioactive waste at the Vektor complex, the operation of radioactive waste storage facilities in the exclusion zone, and processing and storage of radioactive waste.

The decision came after expert assessments concluded that the specialised enterprises are able to conduct activities within the framework of licences in compliance with the requirements of regulatory documents and licence conditions.

Most of ChNPP's licences resumed on 15 August, with the final licence - for the use of ionising radiation sources - resuming on 17 August.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News