Two main groups of radioactive waste (RAW) exist in Georgia: disused sealed radioactive sources (DSRS) and the radioactive waste generated during the decommissioning of the nuclear research reactor IRT-M. All the reactor fuel has been removed and sent out of Georgia.
Currently, two radioactive waste storage facilities exist in Georgia.
- The near surface disposal site “Saakadze” near Tbilisi that is out of service since 1995. It has stored both short and long lived radionuclides generated in the soviet times. The site is practically abandoned. Neither environmental monitoring program nor technical arrangements for the site monitoring are currently in place.
- The solid and liquid waste storage facilities, including the Centralised Storage Facility (CSF) on the IRT-M reactor site (Applied Research Centre) of the E. Andronikashvili Institute of Physics (IoP). IoP manages and operates the facilities. The CSF stores the waste originated in the decommissioning of IRT-M reactor.
Some RAW are stored in pits at the Institute of Subtropical Plants and Tea near Anaseuli. The objectives of the project has been to:
- investigate the current status and condition of the above-mentioned radioactive waste storage facilities, including the amount, nature and condition of the radioactive waste stored in them
- estimate the total inventory of radioactive waste to be managed and disposed of in Georgia
- review the existing legislative and normative documents regarding radioactive waste management and disposal in Georgia
- prepare a strategy document on the safe management and storage of the radioactive waste in Georgia.
The contractor of the project was a consortium of companies ENCO, Institute for Radioelements - Elit and Studsvik.
The Terms of Reference of the project has required implementing the project in six tasks.
The Task 1 was the general project management.
In the Task 2, the contractor assessed the present condition of the “Saakadze” site.
During one site visit, the contractor performed geophysical investigation of the site including the site topography using GPS and study of hydrological, geological and environmental conditions. The internal conditions of site structures were thoroughly inspected using a small video camera and a flashlight. During another visit, the contractor surveyed the radiological situation of the “repository area” to identify potential leaks or radioactive contamination. Samples from environmental objects (soil, water, etc.) and liquid waste tanks were taken and evaluated in a certified laboratory in Ukraine.
All information collected and analysis results were summarized in task 2 reports.
In the Task 3, the contractor assessed the current condition of the Centralised (Interim) Storage Facility on the IRT-M reactor site. During three site visits, the contractor got an overview of the facilities status, activities performed, waste packages, records available, etc. The contractor performed in-situ radiometry and spectrometry measurements, sampling and analyses in a specialized laboratory. The contractor collected information and data needed for the comprehensive description of the site and stored waste inventory. The findings were described in a task 3 report.
In the Task 4, the contractor compiled and analysed relevant information on current practices and regulatory framework of RAW management in Georgia. The findings were compared with good practices in EU countries having comparable nuclear programmes (Austria, Slovenia) and with international guidelines and regulations (IAEA, EU). The major gaps and areas for improvement in the RAW management system in Georgia were identified and reflected in provided recommendations. The contractor then collected and analysed all available information on the RAW currently stored in Georgia, mainly on the Saakadze site and in the storages facilities on the Applied Research Centre site. RAW stored in pits at the Institute of Subtropical Plants and Tea near Anaseuli were also included. The Consultant then assessed the expected total RAW inventory in Georgia including the legacy, the current and estimated future RAW production. The Consultant also evaluated the appropriateness of the RAW recording and accounting system kept by the Georgian Regulatory Authority and the IoP. All findings and recommendations were summarized in task 4 reports.
In the Task 5, the contractor prepared a draft strategy of a safe and economically sound management of RAW, with a focus on safe treatment and final disposal of currently accumulated and future RAW in Georgia. The strategy has contained main actions, phases, timing, and expected results, including establishment of radioactive waste management agency. A rough estimate of required financial resources, as well as a brief description of possible funding system have also been provided.
In the Task 6, the contractor elaborated the project Final Report and organized a dissemination workshop presenting the project results to the project stakeholders and the contractor of the follow-up GE4.01/09. project
The know-how transferred within the project helped Georgian counterparts to familiarize themselves with up-to-date RAW management practices of the EU countries and to learn RAW management approaches used at similar facilities. The contractor assessed the current RAW management practices and RAW status in Georgia and provided a number of generic recommendations for improvement. Specific recommendations have also been provided to address existing issues at the Saakadze and IoP radwaste storage facilities.
During the project implementation, the contractor also encountered difficulties. Besides missing or lost documentation, data and records, the main difficulties were due to:
- limited or no access to information and data collected in Georgian database sources due to confidentiality issues
- Problems with authorisations for topographical surveys on RAW storage facility sites (security clearance was required for high resolution topographical maps)
- Restricted access to some specific data, formally in the possession of the Regulatory Authority (e.g. CSF licensing package documents and radioactive sources database), which were treated as a classified information.
The experience have shown that the project implementation would have been facilitated if:
- The Georgian Regulatory Authority had been one of the project Beneficiaries
- The ToR had clearly required a full access for the contractor to the information and data in possession of Beneficiary country organisations/authorities needed for the project implementation.