The Ignalina nuclear power plant (INPP) and the Lithuanian Geological Survey under the Ministry of the Environment have signed a cooperation agreement on the implementation of a deep burial site for radioactive waste in 2021-2030, INPP said.

This agreement provides a solid foundation for the implementation of the envisaged deep repository project as part of the Programme for the Development of the Decommissioning of Nuclear Power Facilities and Radioactive Waste Management for 2021–2030, approved by the Lithuania Government in February.

Under the agreement, the Geological Survey of Lithuania will prepare the main geological criteria (eligibility criteria) for the deep repository, supervise the planned geological investigations, comprehensively study and analyse the research data and provide the necessary consultations to INPP in the field of geology throughout the project.

“I am glad that together with the Geological Survey of Lithuania, guided by the interests of the state, we have agreed and duly assigned responsibilities for the joint implementation of a project important for the state. Such a comprehensive and qualified involvement of the service guarantees professionalism and reliability in making future geological decisions,” noted INPP General Director Audrius Kamienas.

The activities of the initial conceptual planning stage of the deep geological repository planned for 2021-2030 are financed from the Lithuanian state budget and the Norwegian Grants (under the project “Increasing the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management at Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant”). 

INPP also said it is also considering converting the bituminised radioactive waste storage facility into a repository. As yet the world has no experience in the final disposal of bituminous radioactive waste, so innovative solutions will be investigated within the framework of a project funded by the Norwegian Financial Mechanism, the Norwegian Radiation and Nuclear Safety Agency (DSA) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). DSA together with the State Atomic Energy Safety Inspectorate (Vatesi) are partners in the INPP project. One of the project objectives is to assess the possibility of converting the INPP bituminised radioactive waste storage facility into a repository.

During the operation of the INPP, the storage facilities have accumulated over 14,000 cubic metres of processed radioactive bituminous waste. The final disposal of that waste is a challenge for INPP that requires knowledge and resources best mobilised through international co-operation. In order to justify modernisation of the storage facility, geotechnical, geotechnical, geodetic and other studies have been carried out, INPP said. Based on these studies, documents will be prepared, on the basis of which a decision will be made on the possibility of converting the storage into a repository.

After studying the above documents and obtaining opinions and recommendations of international experts, Vatesi will make a decision on the methods of the final ordering of bituminised radioactive waste proposed by INPP. “The preparation of the concept of the repository is the most difficult stage, because based on its results a decision will be made on the possibility of converting the storage into a repository,” explained Kamienas. “We are convinced that in active cooperation with experts from Vatesi, IAEA and DSA, unique conceptual solutions for the final storage of waste will be developed, which can be used at further stages of project development and will become the basis for other successful projects for radioactive waste management in the world.”

The project “Improving the safety of radioactive waste management at the Ignalina NPP” is funded by the Norwegian Financial Mechanism and is administered by the European Economic Area Administration and Norwegian programmes under Lithuania’s Cenral Project Management Agency.

INPP comprised two water-cooled graphite-moderated channel-type RBMK-1500 reactors. Unit 1 came online in 1983 and unit 2 in 1987. Originally, unit 2 was scheduled for launch in 1986, but this was postponed following the Chernobyl accident, after which both units were de-rated to 1360MWe. Lithuania agreed to close the plant as part of its accession agreement to the European Union (EU), which argued that lack of containment made the units unsafe. Ignalina 1 closed in 2004 and Ignalina 2 – which accounted for 25% of Lithuania’s electricity generating capacity and supplied about 70% of Lithuania’s electrical demand – closed in 2009. The EU is largelyu funding its decommissioning.