An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts said Bulgaria is committed to the safe management of radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel. The team also noted areas for potential long-term improvements.
The 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 mission was requested by the Government. It was hosted by the 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), which have specific responsibilities for nuclear safety and radiation protection. 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.
ARTEMIS missions provide independent expert advice from an international team of specialists convened by the IAEA. Reviews are based on IAEA safety standards and technical guidance as well as international good practices. The European Commission obliges European Union Member States to subject their national programmes for the management of radioactive waste and spent fuel to independent review.
The team comprised six experts from Belgium, Denmark, Lithuania, Mexico, Slovenia and the United Kingdom as well as 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.
Located in northwestern Bulgaria, the KNPP 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.
The ARTEMIS team noted that Bulgaria has a strong legal and regulatory basis for the safe management of radioactive waste and spent fuel. It said the existence of predisposal facilities demonstrated Bulgaria’s commitment to implement the National Strategy.
“The Bulgarian national programme contains all the elements for managing radioactive waste and spent fuel,” said ARTEMIS team leader Christophe Depaus, Safety Analysis Senior Expert at the Belgian National Agency for Radioactive Waste and Enriched Fissile Materials. “Our review highlights the strengths of the Bulgarian programme and identifies some areas for improvement.”
The team provided recommendations and suggestions, including:
• The Government should avoid limiting the timeframe for the National Strategy to 2030 and should include long-term milestones and schedules that will consider the policy requirements, planning assumptions, strategic preferences and contingencies for the entire programme lifecycle.
• The Government should ensure that financial provisions for geological disposal are made.
“ARTEMIS is an important tool for assessing the strategies and programmes for managing the activities of the final phase of the nuclear fuel cycle,” said Krasimir Parvanov, Deputy Minister of Energy of Bulgaria. “This mission is of paramount importance in terms of compliance with our international safety commitments. Our efforts will aim to improve our programme for radioactive waste and spent fuel management.”
IAEA Director Peter Johnston, Head of the Division of Radiation, Transport and Waste Safety, said the Bulgarian counterparts were open and transparent in the discussions. “This review provides feedback on the radioactive waste and spent fuel management programme of Bulgaria that will help its further development and implementation.”
The final mission report will be provided to the Government in about two months.
ARTEMIS is an integrated expert review service for radioactive waste and spent fuel management, decommissioning and remediation programmes. This service is intended for facility operators and organizations responsible for radioactive waste management, as well as for regulators, national policy makers and other decision makers.