IAEA Sees Strength In Bulgaria's Radioactive Waste Strategy

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts said Bulgaria is committed to the safe management of radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel, but recommended changes the country could make for long-term improvements.

IAEAThe Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning and Remediation (ARTEMIS) team concluded a 10-day mission to Bulgaria on 20 June, the IAEA said.

Routine IAEA missions concerning domestic uses of nuclear power are usually performed by request. This inspection was requested by the Bulgarian government and was hosted by the country's Ministry of Energy with the participation of the Bulgarian Nuclear Regulatory Agency (BNRA) and the Ministry of Health’s National Centre of Radiobiology and Radiation Protection (MoH-NCRRP). Members of the European Union, however, are obliged to subject their nuclear waste programs to credible independent reviews. 

Bulgarian Energy Holding (BEH), Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) and State Enterprise Radioactive Waste (SERAW), which is in charge of radioactive waste management, also participated during the mission.

The team sent to Bulgaria included experts from Belgium, Denmark, Lithuania, Mexico, Slovenia and the United Kingdom and three IAEA staff members. The team held meetings with officials from the Ministry of Energy, BNRA, MoH-NCRRP, BEH, KNPP and SERAW in the capital Sofia.

The KNPP currently has two operational reactors and four units that are being decommissioned. A National Disposal Facility (NDF) for radioactive waste is under construction at the Kozloduy site. There is also a storage facility near the town of Novi Han, about 30 km southeast of Sofia, for radioactive waste from industrial, medical, educational and research uses. The Government has developed a comprehensive National Strategy for managing spent fuel and radioactive waste until 2030.

IAEA noted that Bulgaria has a strong legal and regulatory basis for the safe management of radioactive waste and spent fuel. The development of predisposal facilities is a strong indicator of Bulgaria’s commitment to implement the National Strategy, the IAEA said.

The ARTEMIS team provided recommendations and suggestions, including having the government avoid limiting the timeframe for the National Strategy to 2030, so they could aim for long-term milestones and schedules that will consider the policy requirements, planning assumptions, strategic preferences and contingencies for the entire program life cycle. The government should also ensure there are finances available for geological disposal, the IAEA said.

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