Russia’s first near-surface final nuclear waste repository for solid low-and-intermediate radioactive waste has begun operation in Novouralsk, according to state nuclear corporation Rosatom. The facility received its first waste shipment between 28 November and 2 December, a statement said. The repository will store waste generated by the nearby Ural Electrochemical Combine (UECC), which manufactures enriched uranium hexafluoride fuel for NPPs. It is currently taking class 3 waste and will begin taking class 4 waste next year, provided the necessary approvals are in place. This includes gloves, protective clothing, air filters, packaging, a variety of plastic materials and other production waste.

All wastes are packed in special containers. Transporting them to plant at the disposal facility is the responsibility of Federal State Unitary Enterprise  (FSUE) Radioactive Waste Management Enterprise, RosRAO, which also oversees the burial process.

The repository is a reinforced concrete structure, 140 metres long and 24 metres wide, built at a depth of seven metres. It can accept up to 300cu.m. of radioactive waste a year and can hold up to 15,000 cu.m.for up to 300 years, which considerably exceeds the 30 years at Russia’s current interim storage facilities. Once the repository is filled it will be covered with earth and planted with grass. At the site is equipped with environmental monitoring systems and a few test wells. Storage is capable of withstanding a magnitude 6 earthquake.

Alexei Likhachev, Rosatom’s director-general, was quoted in the statement as saying that such long-term repositories will also be built in other regions where there are nuclear industrial facilities. He considers the commissioning of nuclear waste repositories to be a “crucial step” towards tackling the Soviet-era nuclear waste legacy in Russia.

Elsewhere in Russia, JSC Siberian Chemical Combine (SCC) has completed ahead of schedule government contracts with Rosatom for decommissioning of liquid radioactive waste storage pools B-1 and B-25. Water in the basin of the B-1 pool has been filled with gravel and clay to form the shield. Work on decommissioning B-1 began under the federal target programme for nuclear and radiation safety 2008-2015 (NRS-1) and is continuing under NRS-2. The work should be completed within two years.

Preservation storage pool B-25 liquid radioactive waste has not yet started but work is underway to build the necessary infrastructure including a power line, special pipeline drainage, temporary buildings, pumping stations, etc. Work on the infrastructure will be completed in 2017, and preservation work will begin in 2018.

Rosatom department head responsible for decommissioning of nuclear and radioactive facilities, Yevgeny Komarov, said the work is proceeding well because of previous experience gained in decommissioning storage pool B-2. 

"SCC has experience as well as a whole set of techniques that has been used in dealing with open storage of radioactive waste. During the process of conservation of pool B-2 many innovations were made that allowed the job to be done faster and better than was originally planned.”