An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning and Remediation (Artemis) team on 25 May concluded a 10-day mission to Lithuania. The team said Lithuania’s national programme for managing radioactive waste and for decommissioning demonstrated a commitment to safety, while also noting areas where it could be further enhanced.

The eight-member team comprised six experts from Australia, Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, and Italy, as well as two IAEA staff members. Meetings were held with representatives from the Ministry of Energy, the Nuclear Power Safety Inspectorate (Vatesi), the Radiation Protection Centre (RSC) and the State Enterprise Ignalina NPP (INPP).

The mission aimed to help Lithuania meet European Union obligations that require an independent review of national programmes for the management of radioactive waste, and of the INPP decommissioning programme. The team evaluated the Lithuanian national programme and the national framework for implementing obligations for safe and sustainable radioactive waste and used fuel management as well as the decommissioning programme of INPP, which stopped operating in 2009.

Lithuania’s radioactive waste and used fuel management programme includes used fuel and waste from the past operation, and the waste from the current decommissioning of INPP’s two reactors. It also includes waste from industry, medicine and research. Large amounts of graphite originating from the RBMK-type reactors require innovative waste management solutions.

Apart from the waste from medical, industrial and research applications stored at the Maišiagala storage facility, all radioactive waste management facilities are in the vicinity of INPP in north-eastern Lithuania. Radioactive waste stored at Maišiagala, located 40 km from Vilnius, will be transferred to INPP by 2023 for further management.

The Artemis team specifically highlighted the successful removal of all used fuel from INPP’s two units to the dry used fuel storage facilities, the ongoing work being performed on dismantling the plant, the development of the national infrastructure for management of radioactive waste and a well-planned communication with interested parties.

“Lithuania has developed an elaborate set of laws, regulations, safety requirements and guidance to deal with its radioactive and nuclear waste safety issues related to current and past activities,” said Artemis team leader Walter Blommaert, Waste Management Expert from Belgium. “Lithuania is strongly committed to ensuring safe and effective management of spent fuel and radioactive waste now and in the future and invests in minimizing the generation of waste from decommissioning by applying appropriate processes.”

The team made the following recommendations and suggestions:

  • The Ministry of Energy should consider compiling the elements of the national policy into one document for the purpose of clarity.
  • The Ministry of Energy should update the financial projections of its Development Programme based on, for example, evaluation of uncertainties and risks and consideration of inflation.
  • The Government should revise the funding system for activities planned after 2030 to ensure that adequate financial resources are available when necessary for safe long-term management of radioactive waste, including its disposal.

“We are pleased to receive recommendations and suggestions of the Artemis mission, which will help us to overcome our future challenges and to explore opportunities in the decommissioning of Ignalina NPP and in the management of radioactive waste,” said Albinas Zananavicius, Vice Minister of Energy of Lithuania. “We value the discussions we had with the Artemis team and we will prepare and implement an action plan to optimise planning and enhance safety of Ignalina NPP decommissioning and management of radioactive waste.” The final mission report will be provided to the Lithuanian Government in about two months. The Government will make the report public.