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Ukraine Strategy for Radioactive Waste

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The Ukrainian government has approved a national strategy for the safe handling and disposal of radioactive waste that has accumulated across the country. Implementation of the plan is expected to start in 2010 and continue for 50 years.

Radioactive Waste Accumulation

At the beginning of 2009, Ukraine had accumulated 2,724,7 thousand cubic meters of solid radioactive waste, including:

  • 1,913 thousand cubic meters in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone
  • 600 thousand cubic meters within the Chernobyl Sarcophagus
  • 171 thousand cubic meters from the decontamination of waste disposal sites
The country has also accumulated 42.1 thousand cubic meters of liquid radioactive waste, including:

  • 20,000 cubic meters at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant
  • 18,570 cubic meters at other nuclear power plants
Ukraine's Strategy for Dealing with Radioactive Waste

  • Stage 1 (8 years): Establish a national organization for radioactive waste management, removal of radioactive waste from storage plants, establish a container fleet, construct and commission storage facilities for the disposal of short-lived, low- and intermediate level waste and the storage of highly active and long-lived, low- and intermediate level wastes.
  • Stage 2 (30 years): Provide for the burial of short-lived, low- and intermediate level wastes, construct and commission a repository for the disposal of high-level, long-lived, low- and intermediate level wastes and develop technologies for the removal of waste from within the original Sarcophagus at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.
  • Stage 3: Complete the disposal of waste from the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and the Sarcophagus. This involves deep processing of radioactive wastes on the sites of nuclear power plants, conditioning and storage of radioactive waste containers with further transport to a central repository, the creation of a certified container fleet and the capacity to produce the vehicles, etc.
The entire project is expected to cost 35.8 billion UAH ($4.32 billion US). For Stage 1, 4.9 billion UAH will be provided from the state budget, the State Fund of Radioactive Waste Management, producers of radioactive waste, international organizations and voluntary contributions.

Vladimir Shandra, head of Ukraine's Ministry of Emergency Measures, estimates construction costs for Chernobyl's New Safe Confinement structure will be approximately $1.6 billion. Final cost estimates for the project will be determined before the end of 2009.

According to Vince Novak, Director of Nuclear Safety for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Chernobyl Shelter Fund and Nuclear Safety Account combined have enough funds to carry out scheduled activities and projects at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant until 2011.

Novak did acknowledge that the ongoing global economic crisis complicates the search for donor funds to finance the projects. However, he noted that everything will be done to ensure the projects are completed successfully. Shandra indicated Ukraine plans to appropriate future funds to implement ongoing projects at the Chernobyl Plant.

It's nice that Shandra is willing to commit funds to Chernobyl projects, but Ukraine is in such a deep economic mess right now that I have no idea where he plans to find that money.

Also, it should be noted that construction of the New Safe Confinement structure is scheduled for completion in 2012. So, EBRD does not currently have enough money in the funds to finish construction of the new Shelter. If completion is delayed, at least the original Sarcophagus has been stabilized and should be able to remain standing for the foreseeable future.

The International Advisory Group ICG has reviewed materials prepared by contractors for Chernobyl's New Safe Confinement and identified risk factors for the possibility of those contractors falling behind schedule and associated cost increases as the most serious risks to the project.

ICG is happy with a new paper on security within the framework of the project (DBCP) as an effective substitute for the preliminary safety analysis report (POAB). This document could be extremely useful for Ukrainian regulatory bodies, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant administration, contractors and the bank.

The DBCP is based on information developed by Novarka at its early stages as the project contractor and provides a functional specification of the New Safe Confinement including:

  • A list of the SC-1 NSC structures, buildings, major components, systems, communications, etc.
  • A description of the specific functions of each NSC component from the above item
  • Systematic design criteria and requirements including additional criteria and benchmarks obtained through research and the design process
  • Analysis of regulatory and legal frameworks applicable to the NSC design
  • Methodology and approach of the contractor to implement the design criteria and requirements
  • Design procedures and rationale for project licensing where parts of the project are reviewed by regulatory agencies, including the main building (foundations, arch, cranes, edging) and the NSC complex as a whole (life-support systems and control of the NSC)
A working draft document also considers:

  • Cleaning the site to build the arch and its mounting systems
  • Dismantling the ventilation tube BT-2
  • Construction of infrastructure facilities
  • Construction of temporary bases
  • Information on main technical and constructive solutions for the NSC, based on Novarka proposals
According to comments by regulators, Novarka is expected to finalize a detailed timeline for the entire NSC design as a way to provide for timely project decisions. A detailed schedule for the design and a listing of required licensing documents and the estimated time of need should also be available.

Video: Chernobyl's New Safe Confinement Design


The following is a short video showing the design of the New Safe Confinement structure that is designed to cover the original Sarcophagus and remains of Reactor 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Materials for the video were suppllied by the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant administration.

Work on the New Safe Confinement is still considered to be on schedule.

My friend Sergiy has a detailed description (in English) of the New Safe Confinement on his Chernobyl Exclusion Zone website.

Volodymyr Shandra, Minister of the Ukrainian Ministry of Emergency Measures, has announced his confidence that the world financial crisis will not affect the financing and construction of the New Safe Confinement structure over Reactor 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Shandra also believes inflation will not have a noticeable effect on the project.

Shandra explained his confidence by noting that project funds are controlled by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

While Shandra seems confident, it is interesting that he also hopes that at the next meeting of donor countries (which started today in London, England), a decision will be made to significantly add money to the “Shelter” fund and the Nuclear Safety Account. This either means the financial crisis is having an effect on the project or Shandra wants to insure there are no monetary shortfalls that could delay the project.

Currently, construction of the New Safe Confinement is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2012.

UK Firm Bids on Chernobyl Work


Cleveland Bridge, a UK company that this week announced a nearly £18 million pre-tax loss for last year, has submitted a bid to provide steel for Chernobyl’s New Safe Confinement project. The company is the only UK firm bidding for the work, which will be a subcontract from the main French contractor, a team of Bouygues and Vinci.

Approximately 20,000 tons of steel is expected to be used in the New Safe Confinement Project. The new shelter will be over 100 meters high and 150 meters long.

Cleveland Bridge is bidding against Italian steel contractor Cimolai and an unnamed firm from Turkey. The contract is expected to be worth £40 million. A decision is expected by the end of January 2009.

Previous Cleveland Bridge projects includes building the Humber Bridge in Britain in 1981, the Tsing Ma Bridge in Hong Kong in 1997, and providing steel for London’s new Wembley National Stadium.

Chernobyl Construction Meeting in Slavutych


On November 21, 2008 over 25 construction companies attended a meeting in Slavutych, Ukraine. The meeting allowed representatives to hear about the prospects for new construction at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Discussions centered on the construction of a new spent nuclear fuel facility (ХОЯТ-2) and the New Safe Confinement structure that will cover Reactor 4 and the original Sarcophagus.

The event informed potential contractors about planned work at the Chernobyl facility. Obtaining information first-hand will allow the companies to better assess their ability to possibly participate in the construction projects. Detailed information was also provided about Novarka and Holtek, who won bids to implement the construction projects at the Chernobyl Plant.

Some of the companies attending the session included Ukrenergobud, Spetsstroymontazh, Ukratomenergostroy, Pivdenteploenergomontazh, Engineering Systems and other leading industrial construction companies.

Ukraine’s Parliament Approves Chernobyl Bill


Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada adopted bill #2635 aimed at a national program for decommissioning the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and turning the “Shelter” covering Reactor 4 into an ecologically safe system. The decision was approved by 354 of 441 deputies present for the vote. The law, approved on its first reading, also provides language for budgeting the finances for these activities.

According to Ukraine’s legal framework, the decommissioning of the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant must include the following items:

  • Cessation of operations (the preparatory phase of decommissioning) - removal of nuclear fuel and moving it to the spent nuclear fuel facility intended for long-term storage. Completion of this stage is expected no earlier than 2012.
  • Final closing of the reactor and conservation of the plant. At this stage, there will be conservation of the reactors and the most radioactively contaminated equipment (2013-2022).
  • Extract reactor facilities during the period in which the natural decline in radioactivity to an acceptable level occurs (2022-2045).
  • Dismantling the reactors. At this stage, the equipment will be dismantled and the site cleaned in order to maximize the lifting of restrictions and regulatory control (2046-2064).
Making the "Shelter" into an ecologically safe system includes:

  • Reducing the risks of the influence of ionizing radiation.
  • Creation of additional protective barriers, particularly those that will ensure proper conditions for work in the next stage.
  • Withdrawal from the "Shelter" of fuel-containing materials and high-level radioactive wastes, transferring them in safe condition, intermediate-controlled storage and disposal in deep repositories (stable geological formations) in case of early deterioration(approximately 30-50 years). An alternative method to ensure safe storage of materials at the "Shelter" site was not proposed.
According to a May 19 press release, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has agreed to donate 135 million Euros in support of clean up efforts at the Chernobyl Nuclear Facility in northern Ukraine.

The funds appear to be earmarked for support of two key contracts:

  • Construction of the New Safe Confinement
  • Completion of the Interim Storage Facility-2
As most of you know, the New Safe Confinement will be the replacement for the aging Sarcophagus currently covering the remains of Reactor 4 at the Chernobyl Plant.  The Interim Storage Facility-2 will be used to deal with spent fuel from Chernobyl reactors 1-3.  Contractors are currently working on design and technical details for both projects.  Final designs are scheduled to be submitted to Ukrainian regulators in spring 2009.

The New Safe Confinement is being funded through the Chernobyl Shelter Fund.  Contributing countries include: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, European Community, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Donations have been made by Iceland, Israel, Korea, Portugal, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia.

The Interim Storage Facility-2 project is financed by the Nuclear Safety Account.  Belgium, Canada, Denmark, European Community, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States have all contributed to this fund.

Even with the EBRD grant, there is not enough money to complete these projects.  It is hoped that the EBRD grant will be a catalyst for additional financing from donor countries.

Information obtained from May 19, 2008 EBRD Press Release

New Chernobyl Contract to Clear Area for NSC


Chernobyl contract signingAnother contract was signed on April 3 by the administration of the Chernobyl Atomic Energy Station. This contract with the Ukrainian company Yutem («ЮТЭМ») is to perform additional on site work in preparation for construction of the New Safe Confinement (NSC).  The Chief Engineer of this project (POM) is Andrey Savin.

This aim of this venture is to remove all above-ground structures that currently exist within the area that will be affected by NSC construction. Any foundation structures located at the southern and northern extent of the current Sarcophagus will also be removed. Included in this effort will be the removal of the foundation used for the installation and support of the crane used to build the original Sarcophagus in 1986-1987.

Approximately 30 thousand cubic meters of reinforced concrete are expected to be cleared away. If workers encounter any highly radioactive materials during the course of this work, extraction, transport and disposal will be handled by the appropriate divisions of the Chernobyl AES.

Physical work for clearing the area is scheduled to begin in September 2008, with the digging of NSC foundation areas to start in November. All work under this contract is expected to be complete by the end of 2009.

Photo courtesy of Chernobyl AES