IAEA Mission Says Lithuania Committed to Safe Management of Radioactive Waste

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts said Lithuania’s national programme for managing radioactive waste and for decommissioning demonstrated a commitment to safety, while also noting areas where it could be further enhanced.

The Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning and Remediation (ARTEMIS) team today concluded a ten-day mission to Lithuania. The mission, carried out at the request of the Government of Lithuania, was hosted by the Ministry of Energy of the Republic of Lithuania.

The eight-member team, comprised of six experts from Australia, Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, and Italy, as well as two IAEA staff members, held meetings with representatives from the Ministry of Energy, the Nuclear Power Safety Inspectorate (VATESI), the Radiation Protection Centre (RSC) and the State Enterprise Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant (NPP).

ARTEMIS missions provide independent expert advice from an international team of specialists convened by the IAEA. Reviews are based on the IAEA Safety Standards and technical guidance as well as international good practices. The mission to Lithuania aimed to help the country meet European Union obligations that require an independent review of national programmes for the management of radioactive waste, and of the Ignalina NPP decommissioning programme.

The expert mission evaluated the Lithuanian national programme and the national framework for implementing the country’s obligations for safe and sustainable radioactive waste and spent fuel management as well as the decommissioning programme of the Ignalina NPP, which stopped operating in 2009.

Lithuania’s radioactive waste and spent fuel management programme includes spent fuel and waste from the past operation, and the waste from the current decommissioning, of the Ignalina NPP and its two reactors. It also includes waste from industry, medicine and research. Large amounts of graphite originating from the Ignalina NPP’s RBMK-type reactors require innovative waste management solutions.

Apart from the waste from medical, industrial and research applications stored at the Maišiagala storage facility, all radioactive waste management facilities in Lithuania are in the vicinity of the Ignalina NPP in the north-eastern part of the country. Radioactive waste stored at Maišiagala, located 40 km from Vilnius, will be transferred to the Ignalina NPP by 2023 for further management.

The ARTEMIS team specifically highlighted the successful removal of all spent fuel from the Ignalina NPP two units to the dry spent fuel storage facilities, the ongoing work being performed on dismantling the plant, the development of the national infrastructure for management of radioactive waste and a well-planned communication with interested parties.

“Lithuania has developed an elaborate set of laws, regulations, safety requirements and guidance to deal with its radioactive and nuclear waste safety issues related to current and past activities,” said ARTEMIS team leader Walter Blommaert, Waste Management Expert from Belgium. “Lithuania is strongly committed to ensuring safe and effective management of spent fuel and radioactive waste now and in the future and invests in minimizing the generation of waste from decommissioning by applying appropriate processes.”

Recommendations and suggestions provided to Lithuania by the team included:

  • The Ministry of Energy should consider compiling the elements of the national policy into one document for the purpose of clarity.
  • The Ministry of Energy should update the financial projections of its Development Programme based on, for example, evaluation of uncertainties and risks and consideration of inflation.
  • The Government should revise the funding system for activities planned after 2030 to ensure that adequate financial resources are available when necessary for safe long-term management of radioactive waste, including its disposal.

“We are pleased to receive recommendations and suggestions of the ARTEMIS mission, which will help us to overcome our future challenges and to explore opportunities in the decommissioning of Ignalina NPP and in the management of radioactive waste,” said Albinas Zananavicius, Vice Minister of Energy of Lithuania. “We value the discussions we had with the ARTEMIS team and we will prepare and implement an action plan to optimize planning and enhance safety of Ignalina NPP decommissioning and management of radioactive waste.”

The final mission report will be provided to the Lithuanian Government in about two months. The Government has decided to make the report public.

About ARTEMIS

ARTEMIS is an integrated expert review service for radioactive waste and spent fuel management, decommissioning and remediation programmes. This service is intended for facility operators and organizations responsible for radioactive waste management, as well as for regulators, national policy makers and other decision makers.

The IAEA Safety Standards provide a robust framework of fundamental principles, requirements, and guidance to ensure safety. They reflect an international consensus and serve as a global reference for protecting people and the environment from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation. Additional supplementing IAEA documents such as Nuclear Energy Series publications can be included in the review basis to supplement the safety standards series. They include practical examples to be used by owners and operators of utilities, implementing organizations, academia, and government officials in Member States, among others.

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