Since the accession of the Republic of Croatia to the European Union (EU), all EU regulations apply in the Republic of Croatia, and take precedence over national legal provisions. The most important one, as far as the disposal of RW and SNF are concerned, is the Directive 2011/70/EURATOM of 19 July 2011, which establishes a formal framework in the EU for the responsible and safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste.
Management of radioactive waste in Croatia is prescribed by the Radiological and Nuclear Safety Act and the Radioactive Waste, Disused Sources and Spent Nuclear Fuel Management Strategy. The strategic guidelines are elaborated in more detail by the National Programme for the Implementation of the Radioactive Waste, Disused Sources and Spent Nuclear Fuel Management Strategy. In November of 2018, the Government of the Republic of Croatia adopted the National Programme for the Implementation of the RW, DS and SNF Management Strategy.
By signing the Bilateral Agreement and ratifying all international conventions, directives, etc., the Republic of Croatia, together with the Republic of Slovenia, undertook to decommission the Krško NPP and dispose of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste generated by the operation and decommissioning of the plant. The Bilateral Agreement between the two countries was signed in December of 2001 and ratified by the Croatian Parliament in July of 2002. Based on the Bilateral Agreement, each of the signatory states is obliged to manage of half of the operational and decommissioning waste from the Krško Nuclear Power Plant.
Regardless of the location and method of management (storage facility/repository), the proposed solution must be technically and technologically acceptable, safe and without harmful effects on the environment.
During the procedures leading to the confirmation of the site, it must be proven that the method of disposal of low and intermediate level radioactive waste and its storage in the Centre’s facilities will not have a harmful impact on the environment, and the facilities themselves must be constructed in such a way as to fully protect the employees, the surrounding population and the environment.
No waste is disposed of or stored at Čerkezovac. Existing military storage facilities have been handed over empty and will remain empty until the conditions for storing radioactive waste are met.
In order to meet the storage conditions, the site needs to be confirmed by conducting an environmental impact study. During the study, a number of research activities will be carried out (geological, hydrological, geomorphological, ecological, seismological, and a number of other research activities), the zero radiological state will be determined and a number of safety analyses will be performed, all to prove that the proposed solution is technologically acceptable and that the project will not have adverse effects on the environment. If the environmental impact assessment confirms that there will be no adverse effects on the environment, the next step is the procedure of obtaining location and construction permits.
Only after obtaining the required permits can the construction of the new and adaptation of some existing facilities for the needs of radioactive waste storage begin.
The low and intermediate level radioactive waste storage facility is a surface type storage facility and the method of disposal of this type of radioactive waste cannot endanger drinking water sources in any way. The way in which radioactive waste is treated, conditioned and packaged prevents the migration of radionuclides into the environment, and it is guaranteed that there is no radiation outside the facility. All waste will be in solid format, treated and stabilized according to best practices in one of the radioactive waste treatment facilities abroad. Waste that is disposed of must not and will not be in liquid or gaseous state.
During the establishment of the RW Management Centre, the zero radiological state will be determined, i.e. the natural (existing) radioactivity of the environment will be measured. After the establishment of the Centre, radioactivity at the RW packet surface, within the storage facility, at the Centre fence and in its vicinity will constantly be monitored.
The project of establishing the RW Management Centre is a project aimed at preserving and protecting nature, the environment and people. Every type of waste, including radioactive waste, requires systematic and safe disposal.
The Fund actively cooperates with international organizations and leading experts in the field of the disposal of radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel (Slovenia, Slovakia, France, Spain,…).
The role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in the development and improvement of Croatian regulations and laying the foundations for the Centre’s licensing is particularly emphasized. The three-year IAEA project CRO9012 is also underway, which is aimed at providing professional assistance in establishing the Centre in accordance with the IAEA security standards, requirements and criteria. For instance, recent activities included reviews of documents for the disposal of radioactive waste from the Krško NPP and proposals for the conceptual design of the RW Management Centre in Croatia, and the comments and suggestions received are extremely useful for project development and improvement.
The project of establishing the Centre is also monitored by the European Commission, which will review and evaluate the Technical Report that analyzes the safety of the project.
The Centre must not and will not affect the environment and people. Some of the largest facilities for radioactive waste disposal are located in agricultural areas, and the agriculture is running smoothly. The most well-known location where radioactive waste is disposed of is certainly the province of Champagne in France, and the closest example to us is the radioactive waste storage facility in the suburbs of Ljubljana, surrounded by fields that supply Ljubljana’s vegetable markets.
The construction of the storage facility, as well as its supervision must be carried out in such a way that it does not have any impact on the population or the environment. The radioactive waste itself must be treated before storage (stabilization, drying, conditioning, packaging, etc.) and packaged so that there is no possibility of the radioactive particles migrating into the environment. The containers in which radioactive waste is stored are stored in a facility outside of which there must be no radiation. The storage facilities are constantly monitored, and the state regulatory body (Ministry of the Interior) conducts mandatory inspections. Storage facilities are built in order to isolate radioactive waste from the environment in a controlled and safe manner, all for the purpose of protecting people and the environment.
Fear, although understandable, unfortunately stems from large amounts of misinformation and untruths that are fed to the public.
The Čerkezovac site is not located within the NATURA 2000 area. There are no protected natural and/or cultural goods at the Čerkezovac site. The potential impact on the surrounding areas will be examined during the environmental impact assessment procedure (which includes acceptability for the Natura 2000 Ecological Network and a transboundary impact assessment).
Compensation to the local community is given as a state incentive for economic development. Compensation is provided in the amount of HRK 8 million and is often misinterpreted as compensation for damages. These are development projects tailored to the needs of the local community. The needs will be examined through various studies (socio-economic, health-care, agro-ecological, etc.), after which targeted development projects can be launched. The Government of the Republic of Croatia will actively support the development of the local community on whose territory the radioactive waste management centre is located.
Trgovska gora was selected as the preferred site, i.e. the area for radioactive waste disposal, according to elimination criteria (Criteria for the selection of the site for thermal power plants and nuclear facilities (Official Gazette “Narodne novine” no. 78/1992)). The procedure analyzed the area of the entire country and 34 areas have been proposed as potential sites. After a detailed analysis, 4 preferred sites have been selected that fully met the criteria (Psunj, Papuk, Moslavačka gora and Trgovska gora), and in 1999, the Croatian Parliament confirmed the area of Trgovska gora as the preferred site for further research as part of the Republic of Croatia Spatial Planning Program (Official Gazette “Narodne novine” no. 50/99). In 2018, the Croatian Government confirmed the selection and endorsed the National Strategy Implementation Programme.
After no agreement was reached on a joint solution for the disposal of radioactive waste with the Republic of Slovenia ath the Intergovernmental Commission meeting held in late September of 2019, intensive activities began to establish a Croatian solution. One of those activities was certainly the takeover of the Čerkezovac MDC site. In late March of 2020, the complex legal transfer of the right of use between the involved ministries and the Fund was completed, and the site was given to the Fund for use.
The Republic of Slovenia has agreed to dispose of half of the radioactive waste generated by the Krško Nuclear Power Plant, but has not agreed to dispose of institutional waste originating in the Republic of Croatia. Such a solution is not comprehensive for the Republic of Croatia, because the issue of the disposal of radioactive waste originating in industry, medicine, science, military and public use remains unresolved, which would still require the establishment of the RW Management Centre in the Republic of Croatia.
The Republic of Croatia plans to build a Radioactive Waste Management Centre, in which only low and intermediate level radioactive waste (LILW) will be managed. The low and intermediate level radioactive waste storage facility is a surface type storage facility and the method of storage of this type of radioactive waste cannot endanger drinking water sources in any way. The way in which radioactive waste is treated, conditioned and packaged prevents the migration of radionuclides into the environment, and it is guaranteed that there is no radiation outside the facility. All waste will be in solid format, treated and stabilized according to best practices in one of the radioactive waste treatment facilities abroad.
The Slovenian concept of LILW disposal includes the construction of silos (shallow land disposal) in the alluvial valley of the Sava River. Currently, one silo is planned for half of the existing low and intermediate level radioactive waste from Krško NPP (Slovenian part) and the remaining part of Slovenian waste that will be disposed of after the power plant decommissioning, as well as for institutional RW from Slovenia.
In the Republic of Croatia, institutional waste generated in the last 60 years is stored in two interim storage facilities. One such facility is located within the Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Health (IMI), and the other within the Ruđer Bošković Institute (RBI). Both storage facilities are remediated, filled and closed, and institutional waste is stored at the producer until the issue of its management is resolved at the national level.
The obligation to dispose of the waste also applies to institutional waste generated by research, medicine and industry, and is estimated at 100 m3. Estimates of the quantities were made for the period until 2060. Institutional waste is for the most part also low and intermediate level radioactive waste.
Storage facilities in Zagreb have already reached their capacity and are not suitable for further storage. The Republic of Croatia, as a member state of the European Union, has an obligation to manage of radioactive waste and disused sources of ionising radiation in accordance with the National Programme, while applying the highest safety standards and provided that no unnecessary burden is imposed on future generations. In order to organize the management of radioactive waste in a systematic manner, the Republic of Croatia will establish a Radioactive Waste Management Centre.
The National Programme plans for the establishment of a central storage facility for institutional RW and disused sources, as well as a long-term storage facility for radioactive waste from the Krško NPP. The repository is planned on Trgovska gora, but only after 2050, in accordance with the Spatial Planning Program (Official Gazette “Narodne novine” no. 50/99). The establishment of the repository will require research work, environmental and human health impact assessment, and risk assessments as prerequisites for obtaining building and operating permits. It should be kept in mind that the storage facility cannot be “turned into” a repository “automatically”, given the physical differences between these facilities and their different safety and other requirements, and considering that each requires an environmental impact assessment and safety analysis with appropriate on-site research.
The term nuclear waste can only be used for spent nuclear fuel from the Krško Nuclear Power Plant, which will not be disposed of in Čerkezovac. Until 2107, SNF will be disposed of in dry storage at the location of the Krško Nuclear Power Plant. The issue of permanent disposal of SNF will have to be addressed at the level of the entire of Europe, because it is a technology that would be too expensive for any country to address it on its own. For now, we know for sure that such waste cannot be disposed of on Trgovska gora, and given the geological aspects, it is unlikely that it could be disposed of anywhere on the territory of Croatia.
The start of Centre construction is planned for 2023, and the completion of construction is planned for 2024.
The Centre’s storage facilities are designed to receive approximately 3,000 m3 of radioactive waste, which represents half of the total amount of the operating and decommissioning low and intermediate level radioactive waste from the Krško NPP, and institutional radioactive waste generated in the Republic of Croatia, including radioactive waste generated by the decommissioning of the storage facilities at the Ruđer Bošković Institute and the Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Health.
Within the Centre, the establishment of the central storage facility of IRW and DS from the Republic of Croatia is planned, i.e. the reconstruction of the existing facilities of the military warehouse of the UBS-20 type. In addition, the construction of a new facility is planned for the purpose of establishing a long-term storage facility for LILW from the Krško Nuclear Power Plant. The construction of an administrative building and a security building for administrative purposes is also planned. Finally, the project will include works on the infrastructure of the Centre, i.e. the traffic, parking and loading areas. Treated, stabilized, dried, conditioned and packaged low and intermediate level radioactive waste will be stored in the storage facilities. You can read more about waste treatment in the section RW Management.
The development and opening of the Info Centre in the Dvor Municipality is planned for the current year, 2021.
On 1 April 2020, the Fund for financing the decommissioning of the Krško NPP took over the business premises in Dvor, where an information centre will be established in the foreseeable future.
Communication and public involvement in activities, but also the entire project and its topics is extremely important for the project of establishing a Radioactive Waste Management Centre, and therefore the open centre will be a key address in the immediate vicinity and the local population and all interested parties will have available all the accurate, timely and verified information.
The Municipality of Dvor has been continuously informed about the activities carried out at the Čerkezovac site and the area of the Municipality of Dvor. In order to encourage the development aspects of the local community, the Fund, in cooperation with leading experts, prepared the Analysis of the energy situation in the Municipality of Dvor with reference to energy poor households, the Analysis of the current state of agriculture in the Municipality of Dvor, the Analysis of public health in the Sisak-Moslavina County, and the study Development Opportunities and Challenges of the Wider Area of the Municipality of Dvor.
Also, on 21 October 2019, a session of the Municipal Council was held at the Town Hall of the Municipality of Dvor at the proposal of the Mayor of the Municipality of Dvor, Mr Nikola Arbutina, at the initiative of the Fund for the financing of the decommissioning of the Krško NPP. The session was convened with the aim of providing information on the management of radioactive waste in the Republic of Croatia and involving the Municipal Council, the local public and the media in this topic. The only item on the agenda was the presentation of the National Programme for the Implementation of the Radioactive Waste, Disused Sources and Spent Nuclear Fuel Management Strategy, and the introduction of the planned activities for the establishment of the Radioactive Waste Management Centre.
After opening the item on the agenda, the Municipal Councilors refused to attend the presentation and expressed their dissatisfaction with Čerkezovac being the site for the management of radioactive waste. Upon the conclusion of the session, Director of the Fund, Mr Hrvoje Prpić and the Municipal Mayor, Mr Nikola Arbutina held a press conference that you can watch here.
As part of the activities of informing the public about the management of radioactive waste in the Republic of Croatia, in 2015, the Fund for financing the decommissioning of the Krško NPP organised a visit to the Krško Nuclear Power Plant and the Brinje radioactive waste storage facility near Ljubljana for interested residents of the Dvor Municipality
In 2016, two public discussions were held in Zagreb and Dvor, which included the presentation of proposals for the National Programme for the Implementation of the Radioactive Waste, Disused Sources and Spent Nuclear Fuel Management Strategy and the Strategic Environmental Impact Study for the National Programme. The public discussion in Zagreb was attended by a large number of interested citizens, who, in the spirit of the democratic principle, presented their views, thoughts and criticisms.
The public discussion in Dvor lasted for two days. The public presentation on the first day was blocked by a public protest by an informal group of citizens and continued after most of the protesters left Dvor by bus, leaving the concerned public to listen to the presentation and ask questions after the public presentation was concluded. The second day of the public presentation was held with numerous questions from the present citizens and representatives of local authorities of the Republic of Croatia, citizens, activists and industry representatives from BiH, and a discussion developed that continued in an informal setting after the official segment.
During 2015 and 2016, a number of communication activities were carried out with the aim of informing the public about the special activities related to the implementation of the Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment of the National Programme. At the time, public discussions were held in Dvor and Zagreb, and communication activities were carried out with the Republic of Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina were also active participants in the discussions held in Zagrebu and Dvor. The entire procedure is documented and publicly available on the website of the Ministry of the Interior.
At the invitation of the Sisak-Moslavina County Prefect, the Fund participated in a meeting with representatives of the Una-Sana Canton from Bosnia and Herzegovina in early September 2019. The topic of the meeting was the future site of the radioactive waste storage facility on Trgovska gora in the former Čerkezovac military complex. Representatives of Una-Sana Canton expressed concern about the impact of the future site on the surrounding population and nature, to which experts explained what kind of waste will be stored there and how it will be manage of, and that this waste will not affect people or the environment, if stored properly.
Also, at the end of June 2021, the first meeting of the members of the delegation of the Expert Team from Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Fund for financing the decommissioning of the Krško NPP was held on the topic of establishing the Radioactive Waste Management Centre on Trgovska Gora. The meeting was attended by prof. Neđo Đurić, Ms Jelena Marinković, Mr Marinko Zeljko, Mr Velibor Čuković and Mr Emir Dizdarević, as members of the Expert Team, and Mr Hrvoje Prpić, Mr Zdenko Vrankić, Ms Andrea Rapić and Mr Goran Kukmanović from the Fund for financing the decommissioning of the Krško NPP.
The topic of the first meeting of the Expert Team and the Fund was to define the scope of cooperation and the manner of work and communication between the members of the Expert Team and the Fund. Representatives of the Fund presented the Expert Team with all the already performed activities related to the establishment of the Radioactive Waste Management Centre and it was pointed out that, as before, any activities related to the establishment of the Centre will be carried out in accordance with all relevant domestic and international laws, regulations and best global practice.
During the implementation of project activities, the Fund will continue to involve the entire public, including the public of neighboring countries in accordance with the international ESPOO convention.
In late 2015, an earthquake hazard assessment was carried out in the wider area of Zrinska gora, which included a preliminary seismic hazard assessment, and earthquakes in the narrower and wider surroundings of the proposed site of the Radioactive Waste Management Centre were analyzed. The results, conclusions and recommendations are published on our web portal.
After the adoption of the National Programme, measurements of microseismic disturbances were carried out on the site and a seismographic station was set up , which connected to the national network. The results of preliminary measurements and readings from the seismological station, together with the planned research activities, will be used for the preparation of a seismotectonic study and more detailed seismic hazard analyses at the storage facility site in the Centre.
Such research activities are implemented so as to build the buildings in the Centre in such a way that they are safe from earthquakes of high destructive power. Given the purpose and building type of the storage facility for low and intermediate level radioactive waste, such a facility will be built with an increased safety factor, which means that it can withstand an earthquake of greater magnitude than expected. According to Croatian regulations, the design of buildings is carried out in accordance with Eurocodes 7 and 8.
As expected, the recent earthquakes in the Sisak-Moslavina County did not leave any consequences on the existing storage facilities, as well as on the accompanying facilities on the site. Our web page contains photos of the buildings at the future site of the Radioactive Waste Management Centre, taken on the day after the 6.2 Richter scale earthquake, which confirm that there was no damage.
The site in question is not in the zone of nominated active faults, and measurements carried out during the earthquake on 29 December 2020 using a seismograph and accelerograph showed that the Čerkezovac site had less ground acceleration than, for instance, Zagreb. While the highest ground acceleration recorded in Zagreb was 2,43 m/s2, Čerkezovac recorded 0,49 m/s2.
In order to meet the storage conditions for low and intermediate level radioactive waste, the site needs to be confirmed by conducting an environmental impact study. During the study, a number of research activities will be carried out (geological, hydrological, geomorphological, ecological, seismological, and a number of other research activities), the zero radiological state will be determined and a number of safety analyses will be performed, all to prove that the proposed solution is technologically acceptable and that the project will not have adverse effects on the environment. If the environmental impact assessment confirms that there will be no adverse effects on the environment, the next step is the procedure of obtaining location and construction permits.
The construction of such facilities is a common practice globally. Local communities receive an economic development compensation which they use to further develop the industries they are involved in. Nowhere in the world has an incident been reported at this type of facility.
There are a number of such examples in the world, and the closest examples to us are Brinje near Ljubljana and Krško in Slovenia. Krško is known for its organic apple growing, and Brinje supplies Ljubljana’s vegetable markets. Along with these two examples, we can also mention the province of Champagne, which produces expensive champagnes or Lago Maggiore in Italy, which is a famous tourist destination.