The decommissioning of Soviet-era reactors at the Bohunice nuclear power plant (BNPP) in the Slovak Republic reached an important landmark. The two pressurised water reactors of the VVER-440 design have now been fully dismantled and their components decontaminated for safe storage and recycling.
The work was carried out by the Slovak Nuclear and Decommissioning Company JAVYS and a consortium led by the Westinghouse Electric Corporation which included a Slovak engineering company VUJE. It was funded through the Bohunice International Decommissioning Support Fund (BIDSF) managed by the EBRD.
This is the first time when reactors of this type were decommissioned and disassembled directly on site. Key to the success of the project was the removal of twelve 160-tonne steam generators from the power plant turbine hall. This allowed the construction of two large, 1250 m3, pools to enable the safe underwater disassembly and sectioning of the two reactors. As a result, around 95 per cent of waste products and metals have already been safely processed, decontaminated and released from the site.
The decommissioning of the two reactors, which commenced in May 2020 and April 2021, took 18 and 11 months respectively. This is a benchmark for nuclear decommissioning activity around the world in terms of both technological solutions and the pace of work.
Steve White, Associate Director for Nuclear Safety at the EBRD, is responsible for the overall implementation of the BIDSF fund said: “The dismantling of the two VVER nuclear reactors and the processing of the metallic waste in such a short timescale is an impressive achievement. It is hard to overstate the complexity of the completed works - and the enormous engineering challenges we have overcome.”
It is expected that work at the site to take apart and process the remaining equipment and systems will be completed by 2025. Civil structures and the BNPP buildings will then be demolished making the area safe for the redevelopment by 2027.
As part of its European Union accession agreement, Slovakia agreed to the early shutdown of Units 1 and 2 at the Bohunice V1 nuclear power plant in 2006 and 2008. The financial and economic burden caused by the plant closure was recognised by the EU, which provided more than €800 million in financial assistance.
The EBRD-managed (BIDSF) was established at the EBRD in 2001. It is supported through contributions by the European Union as well as by Austria, Denmark, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.