Specialists from ODITs-RBMK and Kursk NPP continue to prepare for the decommissioning units 1&2 at Russia’s Kursk NPP. The NPP comprises four ageing RBMK-1000 units, two of which are now closed down. The station's units were connected to the grid in 1976, 1979, 1983 and 1985. In 1994-2009, all units underwent thorough technical modernisation. Unit 1 was closed in 2021 and unit 2 in January 2024.

ODITs-RBMK (Opitno-Demonstratsionnii Inzhenernii Tsentr RBMK) was set up in 2020 by nuclear utility Rosnergoatom specifically to decommission NPPs with uranium-graphite channel reactors RBMK-1000 reactors. It is based at Leningrad NPP where two of four RBMK units have been closed. The decommissioning of units 1&2 will begin in 2025 after obtaining the necessary licences. At this point, fuel and nuclear materials from units are being removed and transported to storage. This is Russia’s second specialist decommissioning centre. The first was established in 2013 at the Novovoronezh NPP for work on units with VVER reactors.

The specialists visiting Kursk will prepare a report with proposals to create infrastructure at the plant, which will then be used by Atomenergoproekt project developer to decommission the RBMK-1000 units. The specialists visited the industrial site of power units and analysed its condition to decide whether it is necessary to adapt existing structures or to build new ones.

Valeria Zelevskaya, Leading Engineer of the Technology Support Department noted: “In the controlled access zone, we looked at a number of rooms that were of interest for reprofiling. The configuration coincides with the premises of the first and second power units of the Leningrad NPP. This pleased us, because for some of the medium-active and all highly active equipment, the handling of which is not provided for at the Kursk NPP we can use sites similar to those in the design documentation of the Leningrad NPP (developed by the NA Dollezhal Scientific Research & Design Institute of Power Engineering – NIKIET).”

She noted that there are not enough sites for handling equipment fragments contaminated with radionuclides, but not related to radwaste. “For these fragments, it is advisable to offer a decontamination/washing area to reduce the amount of waste and convert them into reusable materials after removal from radiation control procedure. We will transfer everything that is not washed off to the level of very low-level waste, which is not radioactive, but there will be significantly less such waste.”

The specialists the solid radioactive waste processing complex. The facility is planned to be commissioned this year. The complex will accept radwaste from the operating and closed RBMK-1000 units. Zelevskaya noted that it was a unique opportunity to visit the facility before it was commissioned “while everything is clean there”. Later it will not be possible to visit most of the rooms, because monitoring operation will only be remote: via video or through viewing windows, and managing using manipulators or remote launch buttons. “The work is extensive, the scale of the complex is impressive. Everything seems to be provided, even in the laboratory, where specialists conduct instrumental analysis to characterise incoming radwaste and to confirm the eligibility criteria.”

Anna Vasilieva, Leading Engineer of the Radioactive Waste Management Department also described the new complex as impressive. “The entire technological chain has already been thought out: from the reception of radwaste to air-conditioned radwaste in certified containers. Also, the radioactive waste processing complex includes a radioactive waste storage facility for placing already certified containers, but only of the NZK type, and there are no options for accepting containers of other types for storage. I would also note that the transport infrastructure at the Kursk Nuclear Power Plant is well developed. In particular, the railway. This allows for environmentally safe and cost-effective transportation of radioactive waste that meets the acceptance criteria for further transfer to the National Operator for Radioactive Waste Management.”

All material collected during the working visit to the Kursk NPP will become the basis of the report prepared by the specialists for the design organisation. The report must be completed by the end of June.

Image: Specialists from ODITs-RBMK and Kursk NPP – Alexander Fariev, leading specialist of the capital construction department, Anna Vasilyeva, leading engineer of the radioactive waste management department, Valeria Zelevskaya, leading engineer of the technological support department, and Andrey Kurnosov, head of the dismantling and decontamination department during a working visit to the Kursk site