Bulgaria repository for radioactive waste will be operational next year

Bulgaria’s new repository for low- and medium-level radioactive waste is expected to become operational next year, according to the State Enterprise “Radioactive Waste.” The repository is being constructed at the site of the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant and is designed to handle various types of radioactive waste. This announcement was made during the International Nuclear Forum organized by “Bulatom,” a traditional event held near Varna.

Construction of the facility is projected to be completed by the end of this year. Following the construction phase, the repository will undergo the necessary licensing process by the Nuclear Regulatory Agency before commencing operations. Once operational, it will serve as a central storage site for radioactive waste that is currently stored at the “Novi Khan” repository near Sofia. The waste, including materials from medical equipment, fire protection systems, and other sources of low-level radioactive waste accumulated over nearly 60 years, is undergoing revision, sorting, and repackaging at Novi Khan. After the necessary processing, the waste will be transported to the Kozloduy NPP site for proper disposal.

During the transfer process, only a portion of the waste’s volume will be relocated to the new repository. This reduction is achieved through the use of a plasma burning facility for specific types of weakly radioactive waste. The facility, which has been operational since late 2018, has successfully processed over 3800 cubic meters of radioactive waste. By employing plasma burning, the volume of various waste types can be significantly reduced, ranging from two to 80 times. In the most recent burning campaign, the reduction coefficient reached an impressive 93 times, resulting in a substantial decrease in the amount of final low- and medium-level radioactive residues. These residues, commonly referred to as soldering iron, are placed in special containers, periodically monitored for radioactivity levels, and will be buried in the new repository if necessary. It’s important to note that the storage and disposal process for spent nuclear fuel follows a separate procedure.

The Novi Khan repository aims to be completely free from above-ground radioactive waste by 2025, with all waste in the underground cells to be extracted by 2030. The ultimate goal is to clear the entire site by 2040 and conduct final measurements to determine radioactivity levels. Valentin Anastasov, the chief engineer of the “Novi Khan” National Repository, emphasized the challenge of retrieving decades-old waste, which required a meticulous review of documentation. During this process, it was discovered that a significant portion of the documentation was missing, leading to physical inspections of trenches and the use of video cameras and specialized equipment in the gamma well. The waste is then characterized, sorted, repackaged in specially designed containers, and sent to the Kozloduy NPP for further processing and disposal.

With the upcoming operationalization of the repository, Bulgaria aims to effectively manage its low- and medium-level radioactive waste, ensuring the safe storage and disposal of these materials. The country is committed to responsible management practices to safeguard public and environmental health.

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