Decommissioning of Ignalina nuclear power plant moves a big step closer

By Gunter  Grabia

Decommissioning of Ignalina nuclear power plant moves a big step closer

Cold trial of dry nuclear spent fuel storage facility has started

With the start of the cold (non-nuclear) trial of the new dry storage facility for spent fuel the Ignalina decommissioning project has passed a major milestone.

Once operational the facility will house the 17,000 nuclear fuel assemblies from units 1 and 2 of the nuclear power plant which were shut down in 2004 and 2009, respectively.

The EBRD serves as fund manager for the international efforts to support Lithuania overcoming Ignalina’s nuclear legacy.

Vince Novak, EBRD Director, Nuclear Safety, said: “We are very pleased with the good progress we see with the decommissioning of the Ignalina nuclear power plant. This is due to a determined effort and excellent cooperation with the local authorities and the plant’s management.

“The recent signature of a contract amendment, which we hosted at the Bank, resolved some outstanding issues and paves the way for the successful completion of this facility which is crucially important for the safe decommissioning of Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant.

“Importantly, it shows the good cooperation between the contract parties who managed to keep the overall cost of some €200 million unchanged.”

The storage facility, which is being constructed by a consortium formed by the German companies Nukem and GNS, is large enough to house the 190 metal-and-heavy concrete casks required for the safe storage of the highly active fuel for a period of a minimum of 50 years.

The cold trial will demonstrate the functionality of all equipment and systems. Once the cold trial has been completed, it will be followed by a hot (nuclear) trial starting in September 2016 before the facility will become fully operational in October 2017.

Construction of the Ignalina nuclear power plant, which is of a similar design to the reactor in Chernobyl, started in the former Soviet Republic of Lithuania in the 1970. The first unit was connected to the grid in 1983 and unit 2 in 1987.

Following its independence in 1991, Lithuania moved towards the European Union and in 1995 applied for membership in the Union. During the accession negotiations the country agreed to the early closure of Ignalina.

To assist Lithuania with the decommissioning process, the EU together with 14 European governments set up the Ignalina International Decommissioning Support Fund (IIDSF) in 2001 at the EBRD.

More than €745 million has been committed by the European Union with additional contributions from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The IIDSF finances a series of key projects required for the safe decommissioning of the power plant and energy sector measures to help Lithuania to address the loss of electricity generating capacity.

In addition to the storage facility for spent fuel IIDSF also finances the treatment, processing and storage of solid radioactive waste produced during the time when the Ignalina power plant was in operation.

New solid waste management and storage facilities, built by Nukem for €184 million, are currently also undergoing cold trials. These facilities have been designed for the retrieval, treatment and interim storage of 120,000 cubic metres of low and intermediate radioactive waste and are scheduled to start operation in late 2018.

Darius Janulevičius, Director General of the Ignalina plant expressed his gratitude towards the efforts of the employees of INPP and the contractors and thanked the European Commission and all other Donor countries, as well as the EBRD for their support and constructive cooperation in the implementation of these key decommissioning projects.