Ukraine's centralised used fuel storage facility 'ready'

21 April 2022

The head of Ukrainian nuclear power operator Energoatom, Petro Kotin, has told EnergoBusiness that the Centralised Spent Fuel Storage Facility (CSFSF) in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is ready and could start accepting spent fuel.

A picture from before cold testing began of the inside of the CSFSF (Image: Energoatom)

In the interview Kotin said: "In principle, nothing prevents us from completing the work started before the war and starting to accept spent fuel there. On 9 March, we were supposed to get a licence from the regulator, but it was postponed. However, I think we will get it soon."

He said that the main hurdle now was the current ban on the transportation of nuclear materials through Ukraine. That ban is in place because of the on-going military conflict.

The Chernobyl site and surrounding area was occupied by Russian forces on 24 February and stayed under their control until they left at the end of March. During those weeks there was also a five-day period when Chernobyl lost access to external power and had to rely on emergency generators.

Since the departure of the Russian forces, safety checks have been carried out on the site and facilities and International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi plans to head a mission to the site before the end of the month "to conduct nuclear safety, security and radiological assessments, deliver vital equipment and repair the agency's remote safeguards monitoring systems". 

In his wide-ranging interview with EnergoBusiness Kotin said that power was restored to the CSFSF on 16 April and checks of the site and equipment had showed everything working normally. He said that if a permit was issued, transportation of fuel to the storage site would begin.

The CSFSF is a dry storage site for used nuclear fuel assemblies from seven VVER-1000 and two VVER-440 reactors at the Rivne, Khmennitsky and South Ukraine nuclear power plants. It is designed to have a total storage capacity of 16,530 used fuel assemblies, including 12,010 VVER-1000 assemblies and 4520 VVER-440 assemblies. Contracts were signed for its construction with USA-based Holtec International in 2005, though construction only began in 2017.

It entered cold testing - where the systems and facilities are tested without using actual used fuel -  in January and had expected to receive its first shipments in April. The facility is located near the Chernobyl site, about 14 km from the Belarus border and is designed to last at least 100 years. Kotin said in January that the project, which means Energoatom no longer contracts the service from Russia's Rosatom, was "a symbol of our country’s energy independence".

Researched and written by World Nuclear News