Lithuania’s State Enterprise Ignalina NPP (INPP) has developed a general concept for the construction of a geological disposal facility (GDF) with assistance from Finnish waste management company Posiva Solutions Oy, a subsidiary of Posiva, under a one-year contract signed in January 2022. Posiva has developed Finland’s GDF at Olkiluoto, which is expected to begin operations in the mid-2020s – the world’s first such facility.

In July 2023, an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste & Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning & Remediation (ARTEMIS) concluded that Lithuania’s siting plans for a GDF was in line with international safety standards. The review identified specific areas for additional efforts including “for the government to establish intermediate milestones and assign appropriate decision-making responsibilities as it progresses with the site selection”.

Lithuania’s radioactive waste and used fuel comes from the past operation and current decommissioning of INPP as well as from waste generated from industry, medicine and research. Ignalina NPP is currently decommissioning two 1500MWe RBMK reactors that provided 70% of Lithuania's electricity before they were closed as a condition for Lithuania’s accession to the European Union. Ignalina NPP has removed fuel from the reactors and placed it into dry casks for interim storage at the site pending construction of a GDF.

The ARTEMIS review evaluated the adequacy of Lithuania’s overall DGF site selection process. The team commended Lithuania for its early development and implementation of the DGF programme in particular by initiating a site selection process and actively planning for the next steps of the project. The team also identified recommendations and suggestions to improve the siting process for the DGR, including for the Government, with the support of INPP, to establish a formal process for public engagement as early as possible. The final report from the review was published in December.

The preparation of the concept is a very important stage of the installation of a geological disposal facility, in order to involve the public and representatives of municipalities in the decision on the location of the installation, said INPP General Director Linas Baužys. He added that public consultations with municipalities had started. "From now on, by continuing them, we will have a concept of what the future radioactive waste disposal site will look like physically and what specific measures will be taken to ensure its safety," he noted. The complex assessment of potentially eligible locations the GDF and its results will be presented to the IAEA for independent assessment, INPP said, adding that it expected to select a site by 2047.

Lithuania's Development Programme for the Management of Nuclear Facilities and Radioactive Waste 2021-2030, proposes that long-lived radioactive waste should be stored in interim storage facilities until the end of their operational period by which time a GDF should be in place.

The GDF will comprise an engineering building at a depth of several hundred metres to accommodate used fuel and waste from INPP operation (1983-2009) and during decommissioning (until 2038). Safety will be ensured by natural natural and engineering barriers. The surface buildings will consist of radioactive waste reception facilities, an administrative building and an information centre. The GDF is scheduled to be built and put into use in 2068.

Image courtesy of INPP