Bob Churchill is Strategic Business Development Director at Amec Foster Wheeler Clean Energy Europe

Decommissioning work at the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant (INPP) in Lithuania has recently reached an important milestone.

Highly radioactive spent fuel has been moved for the first time into a new storage facility, for which a consortium led by Amec Foster Wheeler is providing support on projects, contracts and engineering.

Together with Vattenfall and Tractebel Engie, we run the client-side Project Management Unit for key decommissioning infrastructure at Ignalina, including the Interim Spent Fuel Storage Facility (ISFSF).

The ISFSF covers an area of almost six hectares and has a total capacity to hold around 16,000 heat-producing fuel assemblies in around 190 containers, each weighing 115 tonnes.

On 14 October 2016, a ceremony took place to witness the movement of the first container, loaded with spent fuel, to the new facility. The plan is to move the final container into the ISFSF by the end of 2022, after which the fuel will remain in the store for around 50 years before being moved to an underground repository.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Ignalina site will be decommissioned, with a planned completion date of 2038.

Among others, the ceremony was attended by Rokas Baliukovas, Lithuania’s Vice-minister of Energy, and Vince Novak, Director of the Nuclear Safety Department of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), which manages the Ignalina International Decommissioning Support Fund.

Mr Novak commented that the ISFSF was an ‘excellent project’, delivered in a spirit of cooperation between all parties involved and he described the start of its operations as a key milestone.

I attended the ceremony along with Amec Foster Wheeler colleagues Glen Munro and Kevin Smith. Glen and the team deserve to be congratulated on the success of this project, which is so essential to the overall programme.

When they started operation in the 1980s, the two Russian RBMK reactors at INPP were the most powerful in the world and at one point supplied more than 88% of Lithuania’s electricity. Since the closure of the second reactor in 2009, the focus of the site has been on waste management and decommissioning.

Ignalina is a shining example of international cooperation in nuclear decommissioning and we are proud to be playing a significant role in it.