Legal issues for Russian radioactive waste

16 October 2014

Russia's national operator for radioactive waste management (NO RAO) has highlighted the main problems it faces in siting disposal facilities.

These problems include a lack of common rules on resolving property disputes, difficulty in managing individual and local authority responsibilities, and a need for financing mechanisms to support municipalities in the areas where such facilities are to be located.

NO RAO director Yuri Polyakov presented his recommendations on these issues at a meeting with its parent company Rosatom on 14 October, which was chaired by Rosatom director general Sergey Kirienko.

"There are three critical issues in the operation of radioactive waste management enterprises: public acceptance, financing and property-land relations," Polyakov said. "Each of these has equal importance – the absence of a solution for one means the whole system can't function."

Polyakov, whose comments were included in a NO RAO statement today, submitted proposals for changes to legislation that would be needed to address these three issues.

As preparation for this, NO RAO studied the legislative framework for the management of radioactive waste in France. Features of this framework include how to identify and study the development of a geological disposal facility for high level radioactive waste, as well as the siting and operation of disposal facilities for medium-, low- and very-low-level waste.

"Most foreign organizations are both clients for work to decommission nuclear facilities and the rehabilitation of sites, and operators of facilities for the temporary storage of used nuclear fuel until a decision is taken on whether to reprocess it or to categorise it as waste," NO RAO said.

NO RAO is a federal-state unitary enterprise set up in March 2012 for handling all nuclear waste materials and final disposal of radioactive waste. Its functions and tariffs are set by the Ministry of Natural Resources. Its branches are at Zheleznogorsk in Krasnoyarsk, Seversk in Tomsk, Dimitrovgrad in Ulyanovsk and Novouralsk in Sverdlovsk.

Plans for disposal of low- and intermediate-level wastes are to be in place by 2018. It is expected to establish repositories for 300,000 cubic metres of low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste, and an underground research laboratory in Nizhnekansky granitoid massif at Zheleznogorsk near Krasnoyarsk for study into the feasibility of disposal of solid high-level radioactive waste and solid medium-level long-lived wastes by 2021. A decision on final high-level radioactive waste repository is expected by 2025.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News