The EBRD and nuclear safety

By Axel  Reiserer


The enclosure of Chernobyl’s reactor 4 is about to be finalised

After the collapse of the USSR, the safety of Soviet-era nuclear power plants was a major source of concern for the international community, especially since the accident at the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine in 1986 was such a recent memory.

In order to address these concerns, the Group of Seven (G-7) leading industrial nations spearheaded the establishment in 1993 of a fund that would provide urgent safety assistance.

The EBRD was appointed fund manager of the so-called Nuclear Safety Account (NSA).

In quick succession, urgent safety improvements were completed at nuclear power plants in Bulgaria, Lithuania and Russia.

In 1995 the NSA extended its activities to Ukraine and funded nuclear safety and security projects at unit 3 of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the last remaining operating unit at that time.

These projects include a Liquid Radioactive Waste Treatment Plant, which has been completed and is operational, and the Interim Storage Facility 2 for the processing and storage of spent fuel from units 1-3 which should be up and running in 2017.

The biggest task in Chernobyl, however, is to address the legacy of the 1986 accident which destroyed unit 4 and dispersed large amounts of radioactive material over the surrounding area.

In 1997 the international community – led by the G-7, the European Commission and Ukraine – established the Chernobyl Shelter Fund to make the site stable and environmentally safe.

The Chernobyl Shelter Fund finances the Shelter Implementation Plan, a step-by-step strategy with the New Safe Confinement as its most prominent, visible and expensive element. The giant arch-shaped structure is being assembled away from the accident site. Upon completion – expected before the end of 2016 – it will be slid over the shelter housing the destroyed unit 4 and seal its radioactive content from the environment.

Drone footage shows Chernobyl's New Safe Confinement, the structure that will shelter damaged reactor 4 and the fuel still inside.

 

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In addition to Chernobyl, and building on the experience gained there, the EBRD also manages other nuclear safety funds: in 2001, the funds for the decommissioning of units 1 to 4 of the Kozloduy nuclear power plant in Bulgaria; Ignalina in Lithuania; and units 1 and 2 (V1) of Jaslovské Bohunice in the Slovak Republic were established at the initiative of the European Commission and donor countries with the EBRD as fund manager. The funds assist the three countries in fulfilling their pledge to shut down and decommission the oldest of their Soviet-designed nuclear reactors.

Another pressing issue is addressed by the Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership (NDEP) Nuclear Window. Established in 2003, the objective of the programme is to provide funding for projects that mitigate the legacy of the operation of nuclear-powered ships and submarines of the Northern fleet in Russia that are in different stages of decommissioning.

In 2015 the EBRD, at the request of the European Commission, set up a fund to deal with the legacy of Soviet-era uranium mining and processing in Central Asia. The new account aims to finance projects to rehabilitate high-priority sites in the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

The EBRD supports the decommissioning of nuclear facilities, the safe management of radioactive waste and spent fuel as well as upgrades of existing plants to international safety standards. The EBRD does not provide funding for the construction of new nuclear power plants.