Special features of radioactive waste (RAW) accumulation in the USSR

The beginnings of the nuclear industry in the USSR can be traced back to the mid-1940s. The need for intensive and complex construction projects in the burgeoning atomic industry led to the introduction of a wide range of new techniques and procedures in different areas of science and technol­ogy within a short space of time, including: the search for uranium ore sources; the manufacture of enriched uranium fuel; the development of new construction materials, radiochemical technologies and measuring equipment; the creation of radiation safety systems; and the development and implementation of legal norms and regulations. These new and complex projects were carried out by a number of scientific and research institutes, special design bureaux, public health establishments, and by industrial enterprises and organizations across the former Soviet Union.

In the early stages of the development of the nuclear industry, scientific and research institutes were established in the major scientific centres of

the USSR, such as Moscow, Leningrad (now St Petersburg) and Gorky (now Nizhny Novgorod), with the aim of solving fundamental and applied problems related to the new atomic science. Important institutes such as the Kurchatov Institute (a National Research Centre), the Institute of Inor­ganic Materials, the Scientific and Research and Design Institute of Energy Techniques, the Institute of Chemical Technology, the Institute of Graphite Construction Materials, the Scientific and Research Institute of Physical Chemistry, and the Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Physics were all founded in Moscow and are still operational today. In 1923, V. I. Vernad­sky founded the Radium Institute in St Petersburg, one of the oldest scien­tific and research institutes in the nuclear field, which investigates nuclear physics, radiochemistry, geochemistry and ecology, with specific reference to problems related to nuclear engineering, radio-ecology and the genera­tion of isotopes. The institute actively participates in the implementation of federal programmes and international projects. Finally, the Scientific and Research Institute of Measuring Systems, founded by Y. E. Sedakov, is located in Nizhny Novgorod. As the number and complexity of studies grew, scientific and research institutes began to be moved into other parts of the USSR, including the Scientific and Research Institute of Technical Physics, founded by E. I. Zababakhin; and both the Scientific and Research Institute of Experimental Physics and the Institute of Physical-Energy, founded by A. I. Leypunskiy.

The production centres of the nuclear industries are also geographically widespread (sse Fig. 10.1). The principal Russian atomic production facility is the Mayak industrial association, which is the home of the Russian nuclear weapons programme, and the most extensive complex of intercon­nected production facilities, structurally divided into plants and production subdivisions, with reliable scientific and technical support. The complex also includes other important facilities such as the Mining and Chemical Indus­trial Unit, the International Center of Uranium Enrichment, the Machine Building Plant, and the Novosibirsk Plant of Chemical Concentrates. The infrastructure of many production facilities was based around what were known as‘closed cities’ in Soviet times, and are now known as closed administrative — territorial formations (CATF), chosen for their location, layout and the make-up of their population. Today there are ten of these CATFs related to the Rosatom corporation.

The basic facilities of the nuclear industry that are subject to nuclear and radiation safety regulation in the Russian Federation, along with the number of each type of unit, are given in Table 10.1 [1].

In the early stages of the development of the new nuclear industry, a great deal of highly varied work was carried out simultaneously, from the design of RAW storage to immediate arrangements for the temporary placement of RAW. This simultaneous development meant that systems approaches

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Table 10.1 Basic objects of nuclear and radiation safety regulation

 

Facilities and procedures subject to nuclear Quantity, and radiation safety regulation units

 

Facility

 

NPP buildings, nuclear research units, nuclear powered ships (ice-breakers and lighter aboard ship carriers), industrial reactors, facilities for nuclear fuel production, complexes for scientific and research works with nuclear materials, facilities for processing nuclear materials (enrichment, chemical, metallurgical and hydrometallurgical production, etc.), complexes for spent nuclear fuel reprocessing, uranium mining complexes.

Separate stores for spent nuclear fuel, stationary constructions for storage of nuclear materials, ranges for storage of dumped uranium hexafluoride, ship and industrial reactor installations, tank store for liquid high-activity wastes, reservoir storage facilities for liquid RAW, facilities for solid RAW storage, locations used for underground burial of liquid RAW, plants for liquid RAW processing.

Medical, scientific and research laboratories and other facilities where open radionuclide sources are used, complexes, installations, apparatus, equipment and articles with sealed radionuclide sources (such as technological and medical irradiating units, flaw detectors, radioisotope equipment, radioisotope thermoelectric generators).

Interregional locations for the storage of radioactive materials (under the control of the organization ‘Isotope’), other locations for the storage of radioactive materials storage located in national atomic energy facilities, interregional locations for the storage of RAW (under the control of the organization ‘Radon’), RAW stores located in national atomic energy facilities containing only natural radionuclides.

 

Nuclear

installations

 

213

 

Storage locations for nuclear materials and radioactive waste (RAW)

 

454

 

National radiation sources

 

16,745

 

National locations used for storage of radioactive materials (RAM) and RAW

 

1,508

 

for RAW management were impossible; moreover, there was a lack of overseas experience, and no defined strategy for successful practice. Ques­tions of environmental security were not yet being prioritized, with the main requirement being the radiation safety of personnel dealing with RAW. Accidents leading to a release of radioactivity occurred at several

 

stages of the nuclear refining process. Procedures for eliminating the con­sequences of these events required the implementation of a temporary scheme for emergency waste management; temporary RAW storage facili­ties were therefore created using bulk design concepts.

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