EU increases Chernobyl funding on eve of anniversary

25 April 2016

The European Commission today pledged to the Nuclear Safety Account fund the largest part of the €45 million ($51 million) expected from the G7 and the Commission in addition to the existing support. This fund supports in particular the safe decommissioning of units 1 to 3 of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

On 26 April 1986, the Chernobyl plant suffered the worst nuclear accident in history when a power runaway event wrecked reactor 4. The three remaining reactor units, however, were vital to Ukraine's electricity needs and continued to operate for some years. Unit 2 shut down in 1991, unit 1 in 1996 and unit 3 in 2000.

The plant officially entered the decommissioning phase in April last year, following approval by the State Inspectorate for Nuclear Regulation of Ukraine (SNRC). The first phase of decommissioning is the so-called final shutdown and preservation stage, which is expected to take ten years.

EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica said in a statement today: "The European Union has been at the forefront of the international efforts to deal with the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, to decommission the nuclear power plant and to make the site environmentally safe. Today's pledge will further contribute to ensuring that the projects are brought to a successful conclusion."

The Nuclear Safety Account, managed by the London-headquartered European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, funds the construction of a storage facility for used nuclear fuel from the operation of the Chernobyl plant.

The fund was set up in 1993 to finance nuclear safety projects in Central and Eastern Europe. Today it provides funds for the decommissioning of the three remaining Chernobyl units. Some 29 countries and the European Commission contribute to the Nuclear Safety Account.

The main project currently supported by the fund is the interim used fuel storage facility (ISF2). Its completion is foreseen for 2017. The facility will provide for the processing and storage of the used nuclear fuel from units 1, 2 and 3, which is required for the decommissioning of the plant.

The EU's contribution was announced at the Nuclear Safety Account Pledging Conference taking place today in Kiev, one day ahead of the 30th anniversary of the accident. This contribution is in addition to those already provided to the Chernobyl Shelter Fund for the construction of the New Safe Confinement (the Shelter) and to other related projects to isolate and ultimately dismantle the unit which suffered the accident. The Shelter, to be completed in 2017, will prevent radioactive releases and contribute to make the site environmentally safe and stable, which is also important to the countries directly bordering Ukraine. The EU is the main donor to this project with around €430 million.

The European Commission statement noted: "After the Chernobyl accident of 1986 and political changes in the early nineties, the European Commission initiated a vast nuclear safety program and cooperated with international partners to improve the safety of the Nuclear Power Plants in the New Independent States. In the context of this program the European Commission funded a number of assistance projects in Chernobyl, worth some €550 million."

In addition to contributions to international funds (the Chernobyl Shelter Fund and the Nuclear Safety Account), the Commission funded other projects to study, assess and mitigate the consequences of Chernobyl accident and for the processing and storage of radioactive waste at the site.

Other projects addressed the social and regional consequences of the Chernobyl accident and provided for power replacement following the closure of the plant, as well as reform of the energy sector in Ukraine.

In total, the European Commission has committed around €730 million so far to Chernobyl projects in four ways. Firstly, €550 million for assistance projects, out of which €470 million were channelled through international funds, and €80 million implemented directly by the European Commission. Secondly, power generation support of €65 million. Thirdly, €15 million for social projects. And finally, €100 million for research projects.

State Specialised Enterprise ChNPP, which manages the Chernobyl plant, said on 26 November last year the first ten canisters for ISF2 had been delivered to the site. ISF2 was constructed under a contract Ukraine signed with US-based Holtec International in 2007. It will store all the used fuel on the site for at least 100 years.

The 'double-walled' canisters are "at the heart of" the NUHOMS interim dry storage system to be used at ISF-2 for the long-term interim storage of used nuclear fuel from the Chernobyl plant's RMBK-1000 reactors. The purpose of this system is to store the used fuel for the entire design service life of ISF2 in an inert gas environment, SSE ChNPP said.

The system consists of an enclosure vessel comprising two welded canisters that form two separate confinement areas to prevent the spread of radioactive materials, an internal basket and fuel tubes. It is designed for the horizontal placement of each canister inside the individual compartments of a concrete storage module.

The canisters are being produced at Holtec's manufacturing division in Pittsburgh, USA.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News