Commissioning of interim storage facility starts at Ignalina

22 January 2016

Cold testing - one of the first stages of the commissioning process - has started at the new Interim Spent Fuel Storage Facility (ISFSF) for units 1 and 2 of the shut-down Ignalina nuclear power plant in Lithuania. In a separate statement, the state enterprise responsible for decommissioning the plant (SE INPP) said over 30,000 tonnes of nuclear-related equipment had been dismantled since the process started in 2010.

Ignalina used fuel transfer machine - 460 (Ignalina NPP)
Workers test machinery at the storage facility (Image: Ignalina NPP)

The ISFSF – located about one kilometre from the plant - is to store most of the used fuel that has accumulated over the course of the plant's operation. Some 18,000 RBMK-1500 fuel assemblies from Ignalina units 1 and 2 will be stored in a total of 202 metal and concrete Constor containers at the facility for 50 years.

Known as the B1 Project, the ISFSF is financially supported by the Ignalina International Decommissioning Support Fund (IIDSF) administrated by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The IIDSF is funded by the European Commission as well as by Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.

The cold tests aim to trial the equipment and operational systems, without the use of radioactive waste, to demonstrate their safety and that they meet the design and operation requirements. In a statement on 19 January, SE INPP said completion of cold testing is planned for the end of June.

Successful completion of cold testing is one of the conditions to obtain an operating licence for the ISFSF from the country's State Nuclear Power Safety Inspectorate, Vatesi. Receipt of this licence will permit the start of preparations for the final stage of the project - hot testing, which will employ used nuclear fuel. This is planned for the summer of 2017, with completion in September, and the ISFSF is to start industrial operations in October of that year.

The ISFSF was licensed in September 2009 and was to start operations from 2011. However, the B1 Project is behind schedule by 78 months. According to company data, this delay has caused losses to SE INPP of about €987,000 ($1 million) per month.

The contract to build the ISFSF was signed with the NUKEM Тechnologies GmbH and GNS Gesellschaft für Nuklear-Service mbH (NUKEM-GNS) consortium, from Germany, in January 2005. According to an amendment to this contract of May 2009, the facility was to be completed by March 2011. On 24 November last year, another contract amendment was signed, with a new planned date for the completion of hot testing stated as August 2017. The initial total contract value was nearly €194 million, which included all 190 of the Constor RBMK-1500/M2 casks. After the contract was amended in 2009, the cost of the B1 Project rose to about €202 million.

Meanwhile, cold testing started at the new Solid Waste Management and Storage Facilities (SWMSF) at the plant in August last year. Some 120,000 cubic meters of short- and long-lived radioactive waste currently stored at Ignalina will be processed by these facilities.

SE INPP said on 15 January that 30,000 tonnes of nuclear-related equipment had been dismantled at the plant since decommissioning began. This is equivalent to 23.4% of the total amount planned for dismantling by 2038, estimated at about 129,700 tonnes. The volume of dismantled equipment and related structures has increased each year since the shutdown of the plant - 2844 tonnes in 2010, 3125 tonnes in 2011, 3557 tonnes in 2012, 5118 tonnes in 2013, 7188 tonnes in 2014, and 8686 tonnes in 2015.

Most of the dismantled material will be sold as scrap metal after being tested to ensure there is no radioactive contamination. The rest will be stored in a temporary storage facility until transferred to facilities for final disposal, SE INPP said.

Lithuania agreed to shut down Ignalina I and 2 – both Soviet-design RBMK reactors - as a condition of its accession to the European Union. Unit 1 was shut down in 2004 and unit 2 in 2009. The two light-water, graphite-moderated reactors came on line in 1983 and 1987, respectively.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News