Construction licence for Ignalina waste facility

24 March 2010

Lithuania's shut down Ignalina nuclear power plant has been issued a licence by the country's nuclear regulator to construct a very low-level radioactive waste facility at the site. This waste will include slightly-contaminated soil, rubble, metal, wood and paper from the plant.


Under the licence, issued by the State Nuclear Power Safety Inspectorate (Vatesi), the Ignalina plant will be authorized to construct a very low-level waste (VLLW) buffer storage facility, to install monitoring and measurement systems, as well as transportation and storage systems of radioactive waste.


A total of some 60,000 cubic metres (m3) of VLLW is expected to be generated through the operation and decommissioning of the Ignalina plant. Most of the waste will be retrieved from existing storage facilities, but later will be from the dismantling and decontamination of the Ignalina reactors.


The new on-site buffer storage facility, expected to begin operating in 2011, will have the capacity to store up to 4000 m3 of VLLW. Approximately every two years, when the facility is full, the waste will be transferred to a special VLLW repository and the storage facility refilled. The buffer storage facility is expected to operate for some for 30 years, after which it will be dismantled. In the repository, packages of VLLW will be placed closely together on a concrete base. They will then be covered by several layers of artificial and natural materials for protection against penetration by water, animals and plant roots.


The repository - consisting of three modules each with a capacity of 20,000 m3 – is planned to be located close to the new used fuel storage facility and the solid radioactive waste treatment and storage facility.


The construction licence was issued to the Ignalina plant under certain conditions. These include the requirement that the plant prepares the procedures for later moving the waste from the VLLW facility to the repository and to ensure that staff our properly trained. In addition, Ignalina must ensure that there is sufficient fire protection.


The licence for the VLLW facility is the third issued to Ignalina by Vatesi for construction of radioactive waste facilities. In August 2009, Vatesi issued the Ignalina plant with a licence to build solid radioactive waste treatment and storage facilities at the site. The following month, it issued a licence to construct an interim storage facility for used RBMK-1500 fuel from units 1 and 2.


The used fuel storage facility is scheduled to be commissioned in 2011 and will store the bulk of the used fuel that has accumulated over the course of the plant's operation. Some 18,000 fuel assemblies from Ignalina 1 and 2 will be stored in a total of 202 metal and concrete Constor containers at the facility for fifty years.


The solid waste facilities - scheduled to be commissioned in 2012 - will handle all solid radioactive waste from the operation and decommissioning of the Ignalina plant that has provided almost 70% of the country's power. They will be used for characterization, classification, processing, and storage of solid radioactive waste accumulating in the course of operation and decommissioning of the plant. The solid waste will be stored at the facility for fifty years.


Lithuania agreed to close the Soviet-design Ignalina plant as a condition to its entry into the European Union. Unit 1 of the Ignalina plant was shut at the end of 2004, while Unit 2 shut at the end of 2009. The EU has agreed to pay decommissioning costs for the two RBMK reactors and some compensation through to 2013.


Researched and written

by World Nuclear News