The 16th meeting of the Contact Expert Group (CEG) for International Radwaste Projects in the Russian Federation*/ was held on 23-25 April 2003 in The Hague, Netherlands. The meeting was attended by 78 participants from 12 countries and 6 international organisations.
The meeting considered four major topical issues, namely:
In addition the following presentations were made and received with interest:
Implementation of the Russian Programme on Nuclear Submarine Dismantling
Mr. V.Akhunov, Head of the Department for Decommissioning of Nuclear Installations, Minatom of Russia presented the main problems in the North-west Russia caused by the nuclear fleet operation and decommissioning, and current state of RF activities in this area.
Remediation of coastal technical bases is a main priority now since spent nuclear fuel (SNF) in amount of about 80 nuclear submarines (NS) have been accumulated in Andreeva Bay, Gremikha and Sysoeva Bay (similar volume compare to the number of NSs to be dismantled). SNF storage condition there is much worse than those in the submarines waiting dismantling. International assistance is provided for Andreeva Bay only. But Gremikha (North-West Russia) and Sysoeva Bay (Far East Russia) require urgent improvements too.
110 NSs are to be dismantled and 78 NSs still contain SNF on board. The most difficult task is to dismantle multi-purpose NSs of the first generation. NSs pose great threat in terms of environment and terrorism containing about 200 tonnes of highly enriched uranium, therefore international assistance is needed for their scrapping. In 2000-2002 good progress was reached in defuelling and dismantling of submarines: about 18 subs a year were defuelled (with a smaller number of NSs dismantled). However, now more money is being spent on remediation activities, and fewer funds are available for NS dismantling. Norway, Japan, UK and Canada are willing to sponsor dismantling of several NSs.
It is an important problem since many of nuclear service ships are highly contaminated and contain SNF on board. In 2002 two nuclear service ships were defuelled and dismantled in the Pacific region. Using unique techniques and tools Russian organisations managed to solve this task in very efficient and safe manner, and gained useful experience, which could be applied for future similar work under the Lepse project.
SRW generated during NS dismantling, is placed mainly inside the reactor compartments (RC) for long-term storage afloat. However further RC storage afloat is difficult since there are no free storage place in Sayda Bay any more, and RC storage at the sea is not an environmentally safe approach. On shore RC storage facility is to be constructed.
SRW accumulated during decades of nuclear fleet operation, is stored in different sites. Proper handling of this waste is necessary. Mobile SRW treatment facility was manufactured under the AMEC Programme and will become operational soon at one of the shipyards in the Murmansk Region. Possibility to use existing mine workings in the rock formations in the region for interim storage of conditioned waste will be investigated. Construction of the Regional SRW repository at Novaya Zemlya Archipelago is temporarily on hold since no funds are available. Toxic waste is another problem, since plenty of this waste is been produced during the NS dismantling at the shipyards, but no treatment facilities are currently available there and the waste is being accumulated and stored mainly at open pads posing substantial environmental hazard. International assistance in resolution of this problem has been requested.
During discussion Swedish delegation presented information on the ongoing assessment of a repository for SRW at Novaya Zemlya and regretted the change of priorities by the Russian Federation.
Remediation of the Andreeva Bay Site
The following presentations were given under this agenda item:
During presentations and discussion that followed it was recognised that SevRAO continuously performs remediation activities at the Andreeva Bay site. 1,500 tonnes of SRW were processed, packed and removed from the open pads last year. SevRAO has developed a three-year Programme for the Top Priority Activities that has been approved by Minatom. The Programme is based on the requirements of the Russian regulatory bodies. It was sent to Norwegian and UK counterparts for information.
Norway provides substantial assistance to SevRAO in establishing the infrastructure. Administrative building (so called "Norwegian village") with auxiliary systems was commissioned, and new checkpoint and the guardroom have been built. Reconstruction of the access road, improvement of physical protection of the site and radiation protection of the personnel have been initiated. Absence of radiation checkpoints is crucial for further work, and mobile design of the radiation checkpoints seems to be the most suitable option.
Together with UK partners, NRPA financed radiological surveys, and detailed radiation map of the site was developed. Necessary equipment for hundreds of measurements and for radiation protection of the personnel was supplied by Norway to perform this work. NRPA also initiated co-operation with Russian regulatory authorities.
Several contracts were signed between Swedish, UK and Russian organisations to start activities on management of SNF and SRW, and temporary roofing will be constructed under the UK assistance to protect one SNF storage unit from atmospheric precipitations.
Under the UK assistance it is planned to start detailed engineering and geological surveys of Building #5 this year so that remediation activities will be initiated next year.
During final discussion of this agenda item it was recognised that Andreeva Bay is a most challenging site, and several countries have initiated co-operative activities on its remediation. However practical resolution of the most difficult tasks – SNF management and Building #5 – was not started. Mr. Akhunov has highlighted that intensive corrosion processes are taking place in the SNF storages, and SNF degrades rather quickly. In this situation available time for selection of technical solutions is very limited, and every day of delays causes increase of cost of further remedy actions. After the MNEPR Agreement is signed, which is expected soon, the NDEP fund will become operational, and additional resources could be used for Andreeva Bay. Other donors are invited to join the efforts.
It was recognised that general site remediation plan has to be developed so that it could be used for any type of clean-up activities at the site and serve as an informational basis for remediation of the site. This plan would attract attention of new donors and facilitate their involvement in resolution of problems. At the same time informational exchange between main participants of the Andreeva Bay project and between different sites is to be established on the regular basis.
Improvement of coordination mechanism at the CEG
According to decision of the last CEG meeting, UK prepared a draft paper on how to increase coordinating mechanism at the CEG, and Mr. A.Heyes, Head of the UK delegation highlighted the main ideas of the paper. During the followed discussion a number of comments and proposals were given, including:
CEG decided the CEG Chairman in cooperation with Executive Secretary will update the discussed paper on the basis of comments and proposals made, and present the paper to the CEG members prior to the next CEG meeting for the formal CEG approval at the meeting.
As a result of discussion CEG decided to continue practice of topical CEG workshops, and the one in Severodvinsk (March 2003) is a good example to follow. At the same time the CEG plenary meetings are still very important, but they can take place less frequent, e.g. ones a year. In connection to the plenary meetings separate working meetings on specific projects could be arranged as well, so that the results of these meetings will be presented at the plenary meeting. The structure of the CEG plenary meetings could be changed so that general overviews of major activities and the CEG organisational issues are to be discussed first between the CEG members only, and technical presentations and discussions will continue with other participants. Since more and more people like to attend the CEG meetings, CEG members should paid more attention to selection of their delegates.
Russian initiative on establishment of a working group under the CEG on informational support related to Russian Programme on Comprehensive Dismantling of Nuclear Submarines was discussed in details and fully supported by the CEG. The role of this group would be to analyse major Russian problems, overview status of implementation of co-operative projects, develop and present project proposals, etc. This group will serve for G8 Programme coordinators, NDEP Fund management and other steering groups and recommend them what is to be done. Russian experts will form the basis of this group and Western specialists are also welcomed to join the group. Main terms and conditions for organisation and operation of this group should be defined in the Terms of Reference. CEG decided to authorise the CEG Chairman in cooperation with Executive Secretary and the Russian side to work out a draft of this document and submit it to the CEG members for comments well in advance to the next plenary meeting, so that the document can be formally approved at that plenary meeting.
After presentation of Russian proposals for G8 initiative Mr. U.Meyer, CEG member for ISTC made a statement that ISTC is ready to be used as an implementation tool for the projects under the Global Partnership Programme. ISTC has necessary legal framework in place, well-organised management system, and great successful experience in implementation of co-operative projects in Russia.
The CEG organizational and financial matters
The CEG Secretariat reports were received with interest. CEG supported proposals of the consultancy meeting (12-13 March 2003, IAEA, Vienna) on improvement of the CEG database on co-operation projects, and asked the CEG Secretariat to proceed within the lines of these proposals in co-operation with interested CEG parties. Until the new database is available, current CEG database should be maintained in a usual order.
The CEG Secretariat plan of activities in support of the CEG was adopted for further implementation.
CEG appreciated proposal of the Head of French delegation to host next CEG workshop in France on 24-25 September 2003, and decided to dedicate this workshop to remediation of ex-naval coastal bases in the North-West Russia and to discuss major problems of Gremikha site and status of projects' implementation at Andreeva Bay. The CEG Secretariat will support preparation of the workshop in a way similar to the workshop in Severodvinsk.
CEG approved Financial Report of the CEG Secretariat for 2002.
Recognising importance of the CEG activities and anticipating further extension of international co-operation in the CEG-related areas, CEG decided:
CEG accepted kind invitation of Russian Federation to hold the 17th CEG meeting on 18-20 November 2003 in Murmansk and thanked Dutch side for excellent arrangements for the 16th CEG meeting.