Russia’s Novosibirsk Chemical Concentrates Plant (NCCP) has ended a long-standing practice of dumping nuclear waste in a nearby lake, local news service NGS.Ru has reported. NCCP (part of Rosatom’s Fuel Company TVEL) is one of the world's leading manufacturers of the nuclear fuel for NPPs and for research reactors in Russia and abroad. The enterprise is also Russia’s main manufacturer of lithium metal and lithium salts.
Waste from the plant has been disposed of by pipeline to the lake for almost 70 years, since the plant was opened. In 2021, NCCP built a new complex for processing nuclear waste, which will now be packaged and transported for storage to a specialised organisation in the north of the Tomsk region. The lake which is 7km from the border with Novosibirsk city, will be cleaned up, back-filled, and by 2030 returned to greenfield status.
The last waste was sent to the lake on 30 June. In future, the "tails" will be processed at the plant itself in a new complex that has been developed and built over several years at a cost of almost RUB1 billion ($17m). Recycled waste will be placed in special barrels, assigned a category and transferred to the national nuclear waste management operator FSUE NO RAO, whose branch is located in the Siberian city of Seversk.
The development of the project began in 2011 and the new complex was put into operation in March 2021. It took another year to select materials and refine the technology. In future the waste will be processed, packaged and sent to storage. First, uranium-containing waste solutions are divided by streams and collected in three containers with a volume of 65 cubic metres. They are then transferred for processing - neutralisation and sedimentation, explained Alexander Tikhonov, head of the project for the integrated processing of industrial waste at NCCP.
“Then the solutions go to filtration, where the solids are separated using a centrifuge, while the liquid goes to the evaporation unit where it produces a distillate, which is used in further technology,” he said. “The solid precipitate from the centrifuge is cemented into a single matrix and packed in a 200 litre barrel. The next stage is certification (determining the class of waste). Then the primary packaging is placed in a specialised container, and after that the container is transferred under contract to the waste organisation.”
Tikhonov added that the new technology makes it possible to completely stop the operation of the slurry pipeline, thereby significantly reducing environmental risks. Plant experts and representatives of TVEL emphasise that the current tailing dump is quite safe and regularly monitored and tested. However, current legislation now prohibits the construction and operation of such storage facilities.
The territory will be gradually decommissioned and handed over to FSUE Radon (a Rosatom organisation). By 2030, the lake is planned to be completely filled up and may even become a greenfield site. However, it will remain under surveillance and no residential buildings or kindergartens will be built there for at least ten years.