Decommissioning underway in Lithuania

16 February 2010

The closure of the last functioning reactor at Lithuania's Ignalina nuclear power plant on 31 December 2009 has laid focus on the daunting decommissioning process currently underway with the help of several international agencies.


Ignalina (INPP)
Ignalina (Image: INPP)
Funding for this work is chiefly being made available by an Ignalina International Decommissioning Support Fund (IIDSF), which is managed by the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development (EBRD). About 95% of the required decommissioning funds have been provided by the international community, and the spending is being administered by a Central Project Management Agency (CPMA) and the EBRD. The other 5% comes from Lithuanian state funds through the state's own energy agency.


After an open tender, a group of companies led by France's Areva TA is developing the structure of a near-surface repository for redundant materials and waste. This work has been called Project B25, and is supposed to be completed in 2017, costing €10 million ($13.7 million) and being financed by the IIDSF. The repository contains a variety of facilities - the first should start operating in 2015. The waste storage area will be filled until approximately 2030 when the power plant is expected to be completely dismantled. This will then be sealed and coated with several corrosion resistant layers to protect the surrounding environment from contamination. Most of the work carried out by remaining power plant personnel.


After filling the repository and storage facilities, the long-term work begins. The site will be actively monitored by Lithuania's Radioactive Waste Management Agency (RATA) for the first 100 of 300 years, assuming present arrangements continue that long. Passive surveillance is planned for the remaining 200 years. For short-lived, low-level waste, a separate storage facility will be built and operating by the end of 2010. The total estimated cost of the Ignalina decommissioning project is already over €1 billion ($1.4 billion), with the European Union having pledged €1.4 billion ($1.9 billion) towards decommissioning costs.


Despite the support from the international community, there has been dissatisfaction with the use of funds and delays in the decommissioning process. For instance, the maximum contract price for both one temporary storage facility (B1) and a solid radioactive waste processing and storage complex (B2-4) exceeded initial cost estimates and suffered considerable delays.


"The delay in the implementation of projects is increasing along with the plant's decommissioning maintenance costs," said Andrius Mazuronis, Lithuanian parliamentarian and NATO assembly member.


According to a report by the state's Ignalina Decommissioning Service, the interim used nuclear fuel storage facility and a treatment centre for solid radioactive waste have been completed. Currently, the process of unloading the used nuclear fuel from unit 2 is foreseen to continue until April 2012. By April 2016 it is expected that all fuel from unit 1 and unit 2 will have been unloaded from storage pools and put in dry storage.


In addition to the solid radioactive wastes are the liquids resulting from the processing of coolant water, which will be collected and evaporated on site at the INPP's liquid radioactive waste facilities. The storage facilities are located directly behind the current INPP facilities on the site of the former village of Stabatiskes.


Meanwhile, engineer and environmental researcher Stasys Backaitis said the remainder of the plant and its materials may still be sold. "Do not dismiss the possibility that the power plant will be resold to another investor. One of these buyers may be Russia," said Backaitis.


The solid waste management and storage facilities will begin operation by the end of 2011, and remain working for 50 years for both storage and waste treatment.


By Monika Hanley

for World Nuclear News