Establishment of the RW Management Centre

Based on the Radioactive Waste, Disused Sources and Spent Nuclear Fuel Management Strategy (Official Gazette “Narodne novine” no. 125/14), National Programme for the Implementation of the Radioactive Waste, Disused Sources and Spent Nuclear Fuel Management Strategy (Programme for the period until 2025 with a view until 2060) (Adoption decision of the Government of the Republic of Croatia, Official Gazette “Narodne novine” no. 100/18) and the Radiological and Nuclear Safety Act (Official Gazette “Narodne novine” no. 141/13, 39/15, 130/17 and 118/18), the RW Management Centre (the Centre) shall be established in the Republic of Croatia in order to set up a management system for this type of waste. Pursuant to the Radiological and Nuclear Safety Act (Official Gazette “Narodne novine” no. 141/13, 39/15, 130/17 and 118/18), the Fund for financing the decommissioning of the Krško NPP (the Fund) is required to establish the RW Management Centre in Croatia and manage it as one of the Fund’s organisational units. The Centre will store exclusively solid low and intermediate level radioactive waste. It will not store any liquid or gaseous waste.

According to the National Programme, the preferred site for the future RW Management Centre is the Čerkezovac Military Logistics Complex (MLC) in the Dvor Municipality on the southern slopes of the Trgovska Gora massif. The Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces of the Republic of Croatia classified the site as without a future use. On 31 March 2020, the Fund took over the former Čerkezovac Military Logistics Complex in the Dvor Municipality from the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Energy (now, the Ministarstvo gospodarstva i održivog razvoja).

The first activities on the construction of LILW repositoryies began in 1979 in the former Yugoslavia, when the construction of several nuclear power plants was planned. 13 preferred sites (macrolocations ) were earmarked as future repository sites in the former Yugoslavia. The idea of a federal nuclear project was eventually cast aside, but in 1987, the Krško NPP established a new RW Department to run future project activities, which included coordinating the development of a new methodology and selection procedure for RW repository sites in both Croatia and Slovenia. In 1987, in an internal document, the Krško NPP RW Department by excluding unsuitable and less suitable sites preliminary proposed sites to be further investigated as potential LILW repository macrolocations. The Psunj, Moslavačka Gora and Trgovska Gora massifs were judged to be the most fitting. The Papuk-Krndija massif, Požeška Gora, a most of Zrinska Gora and Petrova Gora as well as parts of Lasinjsko Pobrđe and Dilj were also deemed highly acceptable. Drawing on this, INA-Projekt was appointed to make a dedicated evaluation of the potential RW repository sites in the territory of the Republic of Croatia. Another company, Elektroprojekt from Zagreb, was tasked with preparing a draft solution for a tunnel-type repository. The evaluation of territory in Slovenia was carried out by the Geological Institute, and the Elektroprojekt Engineering Agency from Ljubljana was in charge of the conceptual design of a surface-type repository. In Croatia, Moslavačka Gora, Psunj and Trgovska Gora were again selected as the most favorable sites.

In 1988, the then Croatian Government, through its competent committees (now ministries), instructed the Association of Croatian Electric Power Suppliers (ZEOH; today: Hrvatska elektroprivreda (HEP)) to conduct a study that would consist of base documents for spatial planning, investigation results and site suitability assessment for an LILW repository as well as thermal power plants and nuclear power plants in Croatia. The site selection was led by the Croatian Urban Planning Institute (UPI) as the expert coordinator for the Study. The UPI assembled an Expert Group, which was to:

  • come up with a methodology for selecting potential sites;
  • define exclusion and comparison criteria;
  • assess the entire territory of the Republic of Croatia; and
  • propose a number of favorable or preferred sites to be included in the “Republic of Croatia Spatial Planning Programme.”

The development of conceptual designs for the two available options (subsurface tunnel-type repository, surface-type repository with engineering structures) was entrusted to the company Elektroprojekt, which made similar proposals during the planning of the LILW repository in the 1980s.

The Croatian site was selected based on the elimination criteria approved by the Government of the Republic of Croatia in 1992 (The Conclusion on Establishing the Criteria for the Selection of Thermal Power Plant and Nuclear Facility Sites, Official Gazette “Narodne novine” no. 78/92). A number of expert institutions participated in the drafting of the documents, but most of the work was handled by the Public Company for LILW and SNF Management, founded in 1991 as the operative organisation for RW management in the Republic of Croatia, following a decision of the Croatian Government. The Public Company was later renamed as the Special Waste Agency, or APO d.o.o. (LLC).

The site selection process was overseen by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which advised participants on the best technological solutions. In 1993, seven potential areas containing several smaller subareas were selected as potential sites. After verification in 1995, the sites were mutually compared and evaluated, and 4 preferred sites were singled out. The sites were selected after having met all the elimination criteria and the process was well-documented. Following a 1999 decision of the House of Representatives of the Parliament, the Trgovska Gora site was defined in the Spatial Planning Programme of the Republic of Croatia as the preferred site for further investigations. In 2018, the Croatian Government endorsed the National Programme and confirmed the selection.

The preparation stage in the repository estabilshment saw the drafting of a series of documents, including the already mentioned conceptual designs for tunnel- and vault-type repositories, site survey programmes, preliminary safety assessments for a vault-type repository at the Trgovska Gora site, investment programmes and the like.

As a result, in 1999, Trgovska Gora was listed in the Republic of Croatia Spatial Planning Programme (Official Gazette “Narodne novine” no. 50/99) as the potential site of the LILW repository, which stated: “Based on preliminary research, Trgovska Gora is determined as the site for the construction of the repository. Conditions for further research should be ensured at the designated site. Necessary further research should be carried out in accordance with international standards and with public participation. Additionally, procedures should be in place to assure the partner role of the local community and provide a clear insight into all aspects of the construction and use of this facility (safety monitoring, economic benefits and limitations, possible forms of compensation for the local community, etc).”

Croatia can begin to address its assumed international obligations only by continuing to analyse its options regarding the establishment of a future site of its national radioactive waste repository. The construction is planned for after 2050.

The plans for the future centre involve the following facilities:

  1. a central storage facility for IRW and DS from the Republic of Croatia (the reconstruction of existing military depot buildings, type UBS-20),
  2. a long-term storage facility for LILW from the Krško Nuclear Power Plant (construction of a new building),
  3. an administrative building and security building,
  4. Centre infrastructure: roads, parking bays and manipulation areas.

In accordance with the obligations under the Bilateral Agreement and National Programme, both storages are scheduled for commissioning in 2023. The Radioactive Waste Management Centre is designed in accordance with design criteria for radioactive waste storage facilities, which have been established, internationally verified and consolidated in the International Atomic Energy Agency guidelines. A multi-barrier system with specially dedicated barriers separates the RW in storage from people and the environment. Barriers play a dual role: on the one hand, they can prevent radiation and radioactive substances from leaking into the environment; on the other hand, they make the storage watertight. Storage facilities usually have 3 barriers: a cask (package), canister (overpack) and the building itself, which may be at ground level or below ground for added protection.

In order to store IRW and DS at the Centre site, there are plans to build a dual-structure storage facility consisting of a reception building. Existing buildings will be converted into a near-surface, U-20 type storage facility for central IRW and DS storage. The reception building will not be used for IRW and DS storage. Instead, it will be used for admission, verification and packaging of waste. The storage facility will be used to store all quantities of IRW and DS in containers (casks) certified for the storage of DS.

The intention is also to build an additional storage facility, i.e. a new building at the Centre site for long-term storage of LILW from the Krško NPP. This is designed as a simple, single-room reinforced concrete building with control and auxiliary zones, built based on cutting-edge standards. Before storage at the Centre, all LILW from the Krško NPP will first be transported to one of the RW treatment centres in Europe for processing and conditioning into 2x2x2m3 reinforced concrete containers (RCC), with the estimated total weight up to 15 tons per one full container. The final waste pack will not contain any liquid or gaseous waste to avoid the risk of leakage into the environment. LILW will be stored by stacking three RCCs on top of each other.

All facilities of the Radioactive Waste Managemental Centre require permits and approvals in accordance with the applicable Croatian legislation, EU regulations and international treaties, standards and recommendations.

The implementation of the Centre Establishment Project is underway and includes the following activities: field surveys at the future Centre site, defining the zero radioactivity status, a safety case and reports, project documentation and a feasibility study and an environmental impact assessment of the project. These activities, divided into three segments (job clusters), are interdependent and complementary.

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