During the existence of nuclear power industry a large number of channel uranium-graphite nuclear power reactors was built across the world. Only Russia operates 4 units of the Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant, 4 units of Kursk NPP, 3 units of Smolensk NPP and 4 units of Bilibino NPP. Also, 13 industrial uranium-graphite reactors were built (IUGR) have been built. To date, they all are on the output stage of the operation or decommissioning preparation. While, approximately 250,000 tons of irradiated graphite are accumulated in the world, including ~ 60,000 tons in Russia. Due to the specificity of irradiated graphite the treatment of this type of radioactive waste has not been determined yet.
At the moment, the problem of irradiated nuclear graphite has been partially solved only for a select group of industrial uranium-graphite reactors. This is possible by referring graphite waste to “special waste”. Thus, in September 2015 it was successfully completed a pilot project to establish a point of long-term preservation of special waste at the site of the industrial uranium-graphite nuclear EI-2 reactor. To implement this project the experts of JSC “PD UGRC” developed and patented the unique technology of IUGR output of operation. For a long time they together with leading institutions (IPCE RAS, NIKIET OKBM, MEPI, VNIINM, Institute of Nuclear Power Plant and others) have conducted R & D to develop techniques and technical solutions to treat graphite waste.
However, this technology is not applicable for most reactors
“From these reactors it is necessary to extract graphite, then process to remove the most active radionuclides. Therefore, it is required to develop technologies, devices and hardware systems to reduce radioactive waste activity, which will make disposal of graphite economically profitable,” explains Evgeniy Bespala, a PhD student from the Department of Technical Physics. – Disposal of different classes of waste has a different price: the price for disposal of high-level, intermediate-level and low-level waste differs enormously. If we reduce the amount of radioactive nuclides in reactor graphite, the cost of its disposal will be economically feasible.