EU assistance to Ukraine - project roundup

15 August 2014

After the Chernobyl nuclear accident and particularly after independence in 1991, Ukraine received significant technical assistance from the European Union. This article give a round-up of specific projects.

The European Union has provided support to Ukraine on nuclear safety, mainly through the Technical Assistance to the Commonwealth of Independent States or Tacis (1991-2006) nuclear safety programme and the European Commission's Instrument for Nuclear Safety Cooperation (2007-2013). The first INSC instrument was completed 2013 and it is being followed by a new Instrument for Nuclear Safety Cooperation (INSC II) for the period 2014-2020. For a more detailed overview of the cooperation see: EU assistance to Ukraine in the last ten years.

Chernobyl New Safe Confinement

European Union assistance to improve safety at Chernobyl after the 1986 accident has three main financing mechanisms: the Chernobyl Shelter Fund (CSF), the Nuclear Safety Account (NSA), and the Tacis programme/INSC instrument. The European Commission provides direct funds to the CSF and NSA projects that are managed by the EBRD, while the Tacis/INSC projects are managed by the European Commission.

In May 1997 the European Union and USA developed the Shelter Implementation Plan for remediation work at Chernobyl unit 4 in order to make it physically stable and environmentally safe. The start of construction of the New Safe Confinement in 2012 is the last major construction project at the site (see also 'Raising the roof).

Chernobyl LRTP and ISF-2

Chernobyl's Liquid Radioactive Waste Treatment Plant (LRTP) is designed for treatment of radioactive waste accumulated at the Chernobyl plant and currently stored in the temporary storage tanks, as well as waste that will be generated during decommissioning of Chernobyl 1, 2 and 3. Construction was supported by the NSA with contributions from Ukraine.

Following treatment at LRTP, the cemented liquid waste in 200 L drums will be transported to Vektor. The LRTP is due for commissioning this year after hot tests.

The Interim Spent Fuel Storage Facility (ISF-2) also had design and construction support from NSA. It will provide long-term interim storage (about 100 years) for more than 25,000 spent fuel assemblies and 3000 spent absorbers from the three Chernobyl reactors that were not involved in the 1986 disaster but have been shut down. ISF-2 commissioning is challenging as the wet storage facility SF-1 licence expires in 2016. The ISF-2 completion activities are underway based on the licensing plan agreed with SNRIU.

Vektor Industrial Complex

An engineered near surface disposal facility (ENSDF) was constructed at the Vektor site with EU (Tacis) support starting in 2001. At present the facility has a licence for the disposal of radioactive waste from the Chernobyl plant, but no disposal activities are under way because the licensing conditions for operation have not been not met. For example, updated safety assessments have to be prepared prior to start of operation. Commissioning of the Industrial Complex for Solid Radioactive Waste Management (ICSRM) at the plant site (see box below) has been delayed. The European Union is providing technical support to operator SSE CRWME.

As part of the Vektor Industrial Complex development, three storage facilities are proposed: one for disused sealed radioactive sources; one for HLW; and one for vitrified waste from spent fuel reprocessing. A dedicated INSC project is a feasibility study and preliminary design for long-term storage for long-lived and HLW on the Vektor site. This will store waste resulting from decommissioning the Chernobyl plant and the transformation of the Chernobyl shelter to an ecologically safe system.

Chernobyl ICSRM

The Industrial Complex for Solid Radioactive Waste Management (ICSRM) for retrieval and processing of solid radioactive waste generated at Chernobyl was constructed and cold-tested with European Union support (a Tacis project commenced in 2001). The ICSRM project comprised a storage facility (completed), retrieval and processing facilities (see article, pp. 20-21), and storage at Vektor. The current activities are: completing 'hot' tests; developing the final SAR and the Environmental Impact Assessment report based on hot test results; and supporting the licensing process.

Once the ICSRM is in operation the radioactive waste product will be shipped from Chernobyl for disposal at Vektor. This has been delayed by several years to rectify deficiencies identified during development and cold tests. The hot tests started in September 2013 and are expected to be completed in 2014. The licensing process for operation is scheduled for 2014.

This project is important for Ukraine as it relates to the decommissioning of Chernobyl and waste processing for storage at Vektor. As long as the ICSRM is not in operation the Vektor disposal site cannot be effectively used.

Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

The Chernobyl exclusion zone was established after the 1986 accident. It includes the Vektor site, Chernobyl plant, Buryakovka site and over 800 temporary storage sites for radioactive waste. The European Commission is planning to assist Ukraine in performing an aerial survey of the exclusion zone to identify and confirm the locations of temporary radioactive waste facilities (established shortly after the accident in 1986) and to prioritise them with regard to their existing and potential long-term hazards to the public and the environment.

Rovno, Zaporozhje and Khmelnitsky NPPs

Recommendations on improving the radioactive waste management system at Rovno were provided through an EU-financed on-site assistance programme. A conceptual proposal for radioactive waste management was also developed under the programme, including source minimisation and radioactive waste handling.
The operator also had support to define the optimal decommissioning strategy, and for review and updating the plant's decommissioning plan. Potential safety issues and challenges were identified and recommendations made to improve the existing decommissioning plan. Rovno personnel were trained in areas such as risk management and project planning.

Similarly, the European Commission contracted on-site assistance on improvement of radioactive waste management at Zaporozhje NPP. This work involved the exchange of experience on solid low level waste management (including handling) and development of conditions for long-term storage of conditioned radioactive waste at the NPP site.

Work is currently ongoing on establishing radioactive waste treatment complexes at both Rovno and Zaporozhje sites. The work involves the delivery of equipment for a retrieval facility at Rovno, a radioactive waste incinerator at Zaporozhje and fragmentation and sorting facilities, supercompactors and radiation monitoring measurement equipment at both sites. Installation and testing is scheduled for 2014.

Through the Tacis programme, a liquid radioactive waste treatment facility was also provided for the treatment of drainage effluents, sludge water and spent filtering materials accumulated in existing storage tanks at Khmelnitsky NPP since the start of operation.

The European Commission is also supporting regulator SNRIU in licensing the radioactive waste treatment complexes at Rovno and Zaporozhje.

Buryakovka Disposal Site

Buryakovka is the only near-surface radioactive waste disposal facility in operation in Ukraine. It was built shortly after the Chernobyl accident to dispose of waste generated during and after the accident. The facility is intended for disposal of radioactive waste from the exclusion zone, new safe confinement construction and Chernobyl decommissioning. At present the EU is assisting Ukraine in a review of the status of the facility, with a view to potential expansion. The European Union is also developing recommendations on modernising the site's security measures.

Other temporary storage facilities

After the 1986 accident, some of the radioactive waste generated during the clean-up was stored at 54 storage sites outside the exclusion zone. Some of those are close to populated areas and security is inadequate according to current standards. The European Commission will support the evaluation of these facilities and the capacity for their future remediation and site clean-up.

Uranium Processing Sites

Uranium mining and processing has been practiced in Ukraine for decades and as a result there are a number of facilities and sites that require assessment, and possibly remediation and site clean-up. At the request of Ukraine, the European Commission is planning to start a new INSC project to support the remediation of a former uranium processing facility, the Pridneprovskiy Chemical Plant.

Western side of Chernobyl object shelter and turbine hall.
Raising the roof of the Chernobyl New Safe Confinement

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