Court suspends tender for construction of Ignalina waste storage facility

27 July 2021

Lithuanian Energy Minister Dainius Kreivis does not believe there is any risk of delay or an increase in the cost of the project after the Panevezys District Court temporarily suspended the ongoing tender for a large-scale radioactive waste storage project at the Ignalina NPP (INPP), BNS reported on 25 July. On 20 July, at the request of one of the bidders, one of the largest construction companies in Lithuania, Panevezio statybos trestas (PST), the court suspended the tender for the construction of a surface storage facility for radioactive waste after PST disputed the decision of the INPP Public Procurement Commission to reject its proposal. The preliminary cost of the competition project is €70 million ($82m).

Kreivis, who recently visited INPP to discuss with its management the protracted competition, said that the commission, according to him, acted lawfully, but the final decision will be made by the court. "From a legal point of view, according to my information, the Public Procurement Commission did not infringe the company’s rights. PST did not implement all the requirements of the Competition Council," he told BNS.

In addition to PST two more Lithuanian construction companies are participating in the competition - a company of the Icor group - Axis Tech and Eikos statyba. The Board Chairman of Eikos statyba confirmed to BNS that a proposal had been submitted, while Paulus Arstikis, CEO of Axis Tech refused to comment.

Commenting on the opinions of some potential developers of the storage that the cost of the project will be higher than the €70m estimate of a few years ago, Kreivis said that no decisions have been made so far, and a higher cost may be associated with the financiers of the project.

"The budget increase can be coordinated and agreed with the project financiers. Each euro is carefully considered and the Central Project Management Agency (which administers the European funds intended for the closure of the INPP), that oversees the project, is a source of funding, this primarily means that there should be an agreement on financial costs. " He added that if funding is insufficient, the agency will be asked to reconsider it. In any case, he noted, all decisions will be made only after the final court ruling.

So far, a dispute is still unresolved relating to the payment in instalments of a penalty imposed on PST totalling €10.3 million (with interest) over eight years. PST was fined €8.514 million (excluding interest) for a cartel agreement relating to the renovation of schools and kindergartens. This was the largest fine ever imposed on a Lithuanian construction company. The State Tax Inspectorate has received a refusal from the European Commission to its request to approve state aid to PST to spread the payment over eight years. The Lithuanian Competition Council told BNS that to date, PST has paid more than €1.2 million in fines and interest.

The construction of the INPP storage facility is seen as important from a national security perspective as it will take waste until 2038 during the dismantling of INPP, and will store it for up to 300 years. Dismantling of the Ignalina NPP reactor core is scheduled for 2027

When Kreivis visited INPP on 20 July he discussed with INPP General Director Audrius Kamenas, the strategy for future work and examined new infrastructure facilities for interim management of radioactive waste as well as the ongoing dismantling work. The management of used nuclear fuel and its removal from the units to the storage facility is one of the main activities at INPP until the end of 2022. After removing all fuel from the units, INPP will receive a decommissioning licence to enable complex decommissioning works related to the dismantling of reactor systems.

The Minister inspected the completed first phase of construction of a repository for short-lived very low-level waste, during which the infrastructure for the first campaign to transport radioactive waste to the repository was installed. “The importance of this project is undeniable, because we are responsible to future generations and must ensure the ordering and storage of radioactive waste in accordance with the highest and most modern requirements of nuclear and radiation safety. This method of waste management is sustainable and does not shift the burden on future generations,” Kreivis said.

During the entire period of decommissioning since 2010, almost 64 thousand tons of equipment and concrete waste have been dismantled. Before decommissioning is completed in 2038, a further 108,000 tons of equipment will be processed. The physical dismantling of the reactor core, which will begin in 2027, is an unprecedented project that that will involve dismantling of the world's two most powerful RBMK reactors. Currently, the search for the best and safest design solutions for reactor dismantling technologies is underway.

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