Ceremony marks completion of radioactive waste storage in Kazakhstan

19 September 2023

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) Office of Radiological Security (ORS) has formally marked the completion of a new long-term regional radioactive waste storage facility at Kazakhstan’s Institute of Nuclear Physics (INP). The facility, which has been operational since it was commissioned in 2022 has an expected lifespan of 50 years and replaces a much older facility located at an INP property in Turaz.

The ceremony was attended by the Canadian Ambassador to Kazakhstan Alan Hamson; US Acting Consulate General Langely; Director of DOE at the US Embassy in Kazakhstan Constance McAninch; Brian Rabaey from ORS; and Representative of the US Consulate in Almaty, Samuel Fontela. “The opening of this repository will make a significant contribution to strengthening radiation safety both in Kazakhstan and around the world,” said Langley.

“This storage facility for spent sources of ionising radiation (SIRs) is a big step towards the peaceful use of the atom in the Republic of Kazakhstan,” said INP Director General Sayabek Sakhiev. The storage facility began with an ORS-funded feasibility study in 2019, and construction was funded by Global Affairs Canada’s Weapons Threat Reduction Program. Construction was completed by INP within the framework of the Kazakh-American Special Commission on Energy Partnership Program.

The Promcomplect-B construction company built the storage facility according to the Project Design Package, which passed safety inspections in February 2020. The Energoholding company carried out architectural supervision of the project, while the YRYS-Expert-Kurylys company was responsible for technical supervision.

Approximately 3,500 disused radioactive sources have already been transported to the new facility from the older temporary storage. In the future, the new facility will also begin accepting radioactive sources from other Kazakh organisations.

The storage facility consists of 12 wells of silo strength reaching a depth of 7.5 metres that are then used to place packages with used disused SIRs of gamma and neutron radiation. Above ground is a hangar structure. The new facility eases the load of the existing storage in Turaz that annually accepts about 250 SIRs, including orphan sources. The storage is 80% full and there is no other regional storage that can take the large numbers of SIRs over several decades pending their final disposal or reprocessing.

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