Waste processing and disposal resumes at Chernobyl

Article by Amanda Jasi

AFTER the departure of Russian troops from the site, radioactive waste processing and disposal activities have resumed at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine. The first batch of waste for disposal was transferred from the site on 21 August.

As part of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, the Russian military occupied the Chernobyl site from 24 February to the end of March. Following this, Ukraine’s nuclear regulator suspended several licences after considering the damage from the military occupation, which was said to need €100m (US$99.3m) of repairs. The licences related to decommissioning of Chernobyl Units 1, 2, and 3, as well as radioactive waste processing and storage activities, and the use of ionising radiation sources.

Igor Khomyak, Head of the Licensing Department at Chernobyl, said the licences were reinstated by Ukraine’s State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate after staff submitted documents to confirm that related activities could be completed safely. Achieving licence renewal required staff to complete a “huge” scope of work to confirm that the site could comply with conditions for licensing and confirm the organisational structure and availability of qualified personnel, material, and other resources to meet established nuclear and radiation safety standards and regulations.

Experts from the nuclear regulator, as well as those from the State Scientific and Technical Center for Nuclear and Radiation Safety, also completed an assessment of the site which contributed to the decision.

Illia Shumkov, head of the radioactive waste processing department, added that radioactive waste processing staff passed the relevant courses to allow them to resume work. The last group successfully completed training on 14 August.

All licences had been reinstated by 17 August.

Radioactive waste management at Chernobyl

There are two facilities at the Chernobyl site responsible for radioactive waste management. These are the industrial complex for solid radioactive waste management (ICSRM) and the liquid radioactive waste treatment (LRWT) plant.

At the LRWT plant, liquid waste passes through a curing procedure and is then put into a cement mixture. This mixture is placed in 200 L drums, and, in turn, four drums are packed into a reinforced concrete container. These containers are sent for near surface radioactive storage at the Vektor industrial complex.

The ICSRM treats solid waste. After processing, the waste goes for temporary storage or is transported to the radioactive waste disposal site Buryakivka.

Management activities at Chernobyl also include the new safe confinement (NSC) multipurpose complex. The main purpose of the NSC complex is to limit the radioactive effects of Chernobyl’s Unit 4 – which melted down in 1986 – on the public, personnel, and the environment in normal operation, as well as in emergency situations. The structure was completed in 2016.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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