The Artemis team were shown hot cells at the Ignalina plant (Image: Lithuanian Ministry of Energy)
The Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning and Remediation (Artemis) mission took place on 15-25 May. Artemis missions provide independent expert opinion and advice, drawn from an international team of specialists convened by the IAEA. Reviews are based on the IAEA safety standards and technical guidance, as well as international good practices.
The mission - hosted by Lithuania's Ministry of Energy - was requested by the country's government to fulfil its European Union obligations that require an independent review of EU Member States' national programmes for the management of radioactive waste and used nuclear fuel, and of the decommissioning programme for the Ignalina nuclear power plant. The team comprised six experts from Australia, Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany and Italy, supported by two IAEA staff members.
The team held meetings with representatives from the Ministry of Energy, the State Nuclear Power Safety Inspectorate (Vatesi), the Radiation Protection Centre (RSC) and the State Enterprise Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant.
The Artemis team noted the successful removal of all used fuel from the two units at the Ignalina plant to the dry used fuel storage facilities, the ongoing work being performed on dismantling the plant, the development of the national infrastructure for management of radioactive waste and a well-planned communication with interested parties.
"Lithuania has developed an elaborate set of laws, regulations, safety requirements and guidance to deal with its radioactive and nuclear waste safety issues related to current and past activities," said team leader Walter Blommaert. "Lithuania is strongly committed to ensuring safe and effective management of spent fuel and radioactive waste now and in the future and invests in minimising the generation of waste from decommissioning by applying appropriate processes."
The team made a number of recommendations and suggestions, including: the Ministry of Energy should consider compiling the elements of the national policy into one document for the purpose of clarity; the ministry should update the financial projections of its development programme based on, for example, evaluation of uncertainties and risks and consideration of inflation; and the government should revise the funding system for activities planned after 2030 to ensure that adequate financial resources are available when necessary for safe long-term management of radioactive waste, including its disposal.
The mission team will submit its final report to the Lithuanian government in about two months, which the government intends to make public.
"We are pleased to receive the recommendations and suggestions of the Artemis mission, which will help us to overcome our future challenges and to explore opportunities in the decommissioning of the Ignalina plant and in the management of radioactive waste," said Vice Minister of Energy of Lithuania Albinas Zananavicius. "We value the discussions we had with the Artemis team and we will prepare and implement an action plan to optimise planning and enhance safety of Ignalina decommissioning and management of radioactive waste."
Lithuania agreed to shut down the two RBMK reactors at Ignalina as a condition of its accession to the European Union. Unit 1 was shut down in December 2004 and unit 2 in December 2009.