The BN-350 Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) is an experimental commercial fast neutron sodium-cooled reactor located in Kazakhstan about 4.5 km to the south-east of the city of Aktau on the Caspian Sea coast. The reactor was commissioned in 1973 and became a part of the Mangyshlak Atomic Energy Complex (MAEC). The reactor was designed for 1000 MW thermal power and 350 MW electrical power generation, production of weapons grade plutonium and supply of steam to a water desalination facility and to the turbines of the MAEC.
The reactor was shut down in 1999. Since then, by the time the present project was launched, the plant operator, MAEC-Kazatomprom - part of the NAC (National Atomic Company) Kazatomprom - supported by the international community, had begun first activities for decommissioning of the plant. A preliminary Decommissioning Plan (DP) had been developed and submitted for international peer review under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The reactor had been de-fuelled with the fuel stored in the spent fuel storage pond. The overall intention was to place the reactor into safe storage (termed SAFSTOR) for an extended period (currently planned to be 50 years) prior to final dismantling and demolition. Preparation of the plant for SAFSTOR started in 1999 and was planned to last for about 15 years, depending on the availability of funds, the extent to which the plant is to be dismantled and progress in radioactive and hazardous waste treatment and irradiated fuel storage. During this preparation phase, the main activities included:
- removal of spent fuel from ponds and transportation to a long-term storage site,
- primary and secondary circuits liquid metal coolant (sodium and NaK) decontamination, draining, processing and safe disposal,
- decontamination of circuits and components,
- treatment and safe disposal of operational wastes (solid and liquid),
- overall radiological characterisation of the BN-350 site,
- partial dismantling and reduction of contaminated area “footprint”,
- start of SAFSTOR operation.
These activities would generate significant quantities of radioactive waste.
The Solid Radioactive Waste Storage Facility (SRWSF) is located less than 1 km away from the reactor and linked to the reactor site by a private fenced-off road. Low-activity and Intermediate-activity solid radioactive waste (LLW and ILW) had been stored at this facility in trenches in the ground covered with concrete slabs. The clearance between the trenches and the water table had been maintained at more than 4m and a system of water extraction wells had been used to help achieve this, but recent rises in the water table (about 2.5m since 1972) had led to concern that radionuclides could enter the groundwater and thence the Caspian Sea.
A concept and basic design for a Solid Radioactive Waste Treatment Facility (SRWTF) had been developed and was under review by Kazakh authorities at the time.
The overall objectives of the project were to enhance the safety of the Solid Radioactive Waste Storage Facility (SRWSF) and to transfer EU know-how to Kazakh experts to improve the safety of radioactive waste management and for the future decommissioning activities at the BN-350 site. The specific objectives were to:
- undertake a Needs Assessment for the retrieval, characterisation, treatment, conditioning and storage of solid radioactive waste arising from both SRWSF safety improvement needs and future SAFSTOR decommissioning activities;
- define the optimum strategy for the management of the waste in terms of safety, technical feasibility and financial viability;
- define with the End User the plant and equipment needed, taking into account the already existing design of the SRWTF);
- establish Technical Specifications and Tender Dossiers ready for tender launch, compliant with EC preliminary budget, requirements and procurement rules, for procurement of the equipment defined above;
- deliver soft On-Site Assistance to BN350 NPP on Waste Management & Treatment and on Value and Engineering Management;
- Perform a Design Review of the Solid Radioactive Waste Treatment Facility (SRWTF) with focus on the overall safety approach and solutions resulting in recommendations based on the Contractor's experience and in transfer of knowledge to the beneficiary (NAC Kazatomprom) and the end user (MAEC Kazatomprom) for further improvements of the design once initial approval would be obtained from the Kazakhstan Atomic Energy Committee (KAEC).
The expected activities of the contractor were:
- Task 1: Project Management;
- Task 2: Review existing data;
- Task 3: Design Assessment for the facilities and equipment necessary for retrieval, treatment and safe storage of radioactive waste;
- Task 4: Technical Specifications and Evaluation Criteria;
- Task 5: Support & Assistance for the preparation of the necessary licensing documents;
- Task 6: Support & Assistance to the End Users and the Contracting authority in the procurement and contracting phases;
- Task 7: Final Technical Report.
The contract was signed in December 2007 with a duration of 2 years. The study work was completed within the two years and the final report was delivered in November 2009.
As the necessary agreements between the EC and the Kazakh authorities were not reached in time to launch the call for tender within the contract period, the Task 5 activities were significantly reduced to include assistance in preparing the Tender Dossier.
The required Technical Specifications for the defined equipment were produced in accordance with the contract.