At Russia’s Leningrad NPP, the capacities of the complex for handling used nuclear fuel are being developed to support the decommissioning of the RBMK-1000 power units. Currently Leningrad NPP has four units in operation – units 3&4 with Soviet RBMK-1000 reactors, as well units 5&6 with new VVER-1200 units (also known as Leningrad-II 1&2). Units 5&6 replaced units 1&2 with RBMK-1000 reactors, which were decommissioned in 2018 and 2020. New VVER-1200 units (7&8) will replace units 3&4. They are scheduled to be put into commercial operation in 2030 and 2032 following closure of units 3&4.

The removal of fuel from the NPP is one of the most important operations to bring the territory to a brown field or nuclear safe state in which it can be used for alternative industries or services. At the complex for storage and handling of nuclear fuel, new facilities have been developed for handling solid radwaste such as parts, equipment fragments and consumables from workshops.

By 2026, additional buildings will be constructed at the plant site as well as railway routes. New capacities will allow the removal of nuclear fuel from the closed units quickly and safely. Andrey Ivashkin, head of Leningrad NPP’s Central Council said the expanded complex will increase the rate of cutting used fuel assemblies. “In addition, we will avoid unnecessary movement of fuel assemblies during packaging and ensure their quick removal from the territory of the plant for transfer to the regional [radwaste] operator.

The decommissioning of units 1&2 will begin in 2025 after obtaining the necessary licences. At this point, fuel and nuclear materials from units will be completely removed and transported to storage for several years. After a decrease in temperature and radioactivity, the fuel rods will be cut, placed in sealed protective containers and taken from the plant to special storage facilities.

Image courtesy of Leningrad NPP