Plasma plant at Bulgaria’s Kozloduy nuclear power plant starts operations

By Axel  Reiserer

Breakthrough in nuclear waste disposal to boost decommissioning process

  • New plasma melting facility at Kozloduy nuclear power plant site starts operation
  • Breakthrough in disposal of radioactive waste will lead to significant benefits
  • New technology to be widely applicable and suitable also for historical waste.

In a breakthrough in the treatment and disposal of radioactive waste a plasma melting plant has started operations at the site of the Kozloduy nuclear power plant in Bulgaria. The results of the successful operational testing were presented to the donor community at the meeting of the Assembly of Contributors of the EBRD-managed Kozloduy International Decommissioning Support Fund (KIDSF) today.

Using plasma technology, the facility will significantly reduce the volume of low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste from the Kozloduy reactors 1 to 4, which were shut down between 2002 and 2006, and reactors 5 and 6, which are in operation.

The plant has a capacity of up to 250 tonnes per year. In the plasma, metals are melted and oxidised. Concrete debris, sand, inorganic granulates, insulation material and asbestos are melted. They are transformed into a chemically inert and amorphous glassy slag. Liquids and organic materials are vapourised so the final product is organics-free.

The technology allows for treatment of waste with a minimum risk of radioactive contamination. As the final waste form is free from organics and liquids, it will meet strict quality and stability requirements for long-term storage or final disposal. Also historical radioactive waste conditioned in a bituminous or concrete matrix can be retreated in a plasma facility which makes the new technology potentially widely applicable beyond Kozloduy.

A new plasma melting plant opening at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant in Bulgaria is a breakthrough in the treatment and disposal of radioactive waste.

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The Bulgarian nuclear power plant is home to six Soviet-designed reactors. Units 1 to 4 are VVER-440 reactors which are currently being decommissioned with the support of the international donor community led by the European Union through the KIDSF, which is managed by the EBRD.

The plasma plant will treat waste from both units in decommissioning and units in operation. A new national radioactive waste repository is under construction and commissioning is scheduled for 2021.

The facility is a joint venture of Iberdrola Ingeniería y Construcción (Spain) and Belgoprocess (Belgium), with Iberdrola the engineering company and Belgoprocess the process provider. The total cost of the plant is about €31 million, 35 per cent of which is funded by the government of Bulgaria and 65 per cent by the KIDSF.

It will be operated by the State Enterprise Radioactive Waste (SERAW) entity, which is responsible for the decommissioning of Kozloduy units 1 to 4 and the national radioactive waste disposal facility.

The KIDSF was established at the EBRD in 2001. More than €900 million has been contributed largely by the European Commission as well as by Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The fund finances and co-finances decommissioning projects in Kozloduy and projects to reform and modernise the supply and demand side of energy use in Bulgaria.

Among other things, the fund has financed energy efficiency measures such as the rehabilitation of the district heating network in Sofia, Pernik and Varna, the energy efficiency rehabilitation of 340 public buildings and street lighting in 40 municipalities across Bulgaria.