Waste Management

Final Trials Begin At Chernobyl Spent Fuel Facility

By David Dalton
8 May 2019

Final Trials Begin At Chernobyl Spent Fuel Facility
File photo of construction of the ISF-2 facility at Chernobyl. Photo courtesy EBRD.

8 May (NucNet): Final system-wide trials have begun at an interim spent nuclear fuel processing and storage facility at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in Ukraine, project developer Holtec International said.

Holtec said the latest tests follow a long series of exhaustive tests of individual systems, structures and components at the facility, known as ISF-2.

The company said that over the next two months it expects to complete functional demonstrations of the spent fuel handling and storage processes before handing over the facility to Ukraine’s state-owned enterprise Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant (ChNPP). ChNPP will then begin commissioning of the facility beginning with “hot” confirmatory tests.

ISF-2 will allow for the processing and storage of used nuclear fuel from Units 1, 2 and 3 at Chernobyl, a task that needs to be completed before the station can be fully decommissioned.

Holtec International took over the ISF-2 project in 2011 after a multi-year demonstration to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Ukrainian regulator that it had the necessary technologies to deal with Chernobyl’s waterlogged RBMK fuel and onerous fuel confinement requirements.

The project had begun in the late 1990s but stalled when the initial contractor’s technology was shown to be inadequate. The partially constructed facility and major civil equipment structures remained idle for nearly a decade.

A programme for the design and construction of the facility began in 1997 with international funding managed by the EBRD.

According to the EBRD, the facility will process, dry and cut more than 21,000 fuel assemblies from Chernobyl-1, -2 and -3. The assemblies will then be placed in double-walled canisters and stored in concrete modules onsite for a minimum of 100 years.

The EBRD said the project is costing around €380m and is jointly funded by the EBRD and the EBRD-managed nuclear safety account (NSA) fund. The 18 donors to the nuclear safety account have committed more than €280m to safety projects at Chernobyl and the EBRD has provided more than €200m of its own funding for the construction of ISF-2.

Units 1, 2 and 3 at Chernobyl, all of the Soviet RBMK reactor design, were shut down permanently in 1996, 1991, and 2000. Unit 4, also an RBMK, was destroyed by an explosion in the April 1986 accident.

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