Preparation and removal of the RA reactor SNF from Vinca Institute, Serbia

Preparation and removal of the RA reactor SNF from Vinca Institute, Serbia

The RA heavy-water reactor at the Vinca Institute of Nuclear Science, Serbia, was commissioned in the middle of the last century and shutdown more than 20 years ago. As there has been no standard technology for SNF transportation, the fuel has never been removed from the reactor being left for storage in the SNF storage facility adjacent to the reactor. For various reasons, the SNF storage conditions could never meet standards, and it has resulted in an unsatisfactory state of the fuel. Monitoring of the water activity in the pool gave evidence that the situation had been growing worse year by year.

To solve the problem of radiation safety of the fuel stored at the Vinca Institute, IAEA called for tender and set a task to develop a technology to prepare SNF for transportation and to repackage the fuel into canisters for shipment and temporary storage. Since the Project implied radiation-hazardous activities in the middle of Europe, it was a challenge to organize and perform the fuel repackaging operations at the RA reactor at a high technological level and to ensure international safety regulatory compliance.

Preparation and removal of the RA reactor SNF from Vinca Institute, Serbia

Over the period of 2003-2006, Sosny specialists undertook several missions to investigate the SNF state and the reactor safety issues in more detail. Those trips showed the competence of the Sosny specialists to deal with the scope and complexity of the tasks on SNF preparation for shipment from the Vinca Institute. They prepared technical proposals on the SNF repackaging into canisters, loading into casks and shipment to PA "Mayak", performed a feasibility study and made up a Project schedule. In cooperation with PA "Mayak" and TENEX, JSC our Company bid for the tender and won it in June, 2006.

The Project activities included the following:

  • development of technology and equipment for SNF repackaging into canisters;
  • safety analysis;
  • fabrication and mounting of the equipment at the reactor facility;
  • SNF repackaging into canisters;
  • development of a technology and equipment for loading the SNF canisters into casks;
  • interim storage;
  • elaboration of the Unified Project documents for SNF import to Russia;
  • SNF reprocessing at PA "Mayak".

In 2006-2009, the technology was developed, the equipment and tools were fabricated and delivered to the site. The set of developed equipment includes:

  • a working frame;
  • cutters for aluminum barrels and reactor channels;
  • equipment for SNF repackaging (tilters, grapples, special wrenches, etc.);
  • special channels for the SNF;
  • baskets for SKODA VPVR/M casks;
  • a video surveillance and lighting system;
  • a transport system for the cask transfer inside the reactor hall;
  • racks for temporary storage of the canisters and many others.

In June 2009, our specialists mounted the equipment and conducted training of the Vinca personnel to handle the equipment. In May 2010, practical operations including cutting of the aluminum barrels and reactor channels and repackaging of the SNF into the canisters were successfully completed.

Preparation and removal of the RA reactor SNF from Vinca Institute, Serbia
Mounting of equipment and SNF repackaging

Preparation and removal of the RA reactor SNF from Vinca Institute, Serbia
Russian and Serbian specialists in the RA reactor facility

The SNF-containing canisters were loaded into the TUK-19 and SKODA VPVR/M casks. In November 2010 all preparatory activities were completed and all approvals were obtained. The transport casks with SNF were loaded into ISO-containers and on November 19 the automobile caravan left Vinca Institute. On November 21 the vessel PUMA with Serbian fuel left Slovenian port "Koper" for the Russian port "Murmansk". On December 22 the fuel reached the place of its final destination – FSUE PA "Mayak".

The success of this project is the result of the coordinated cooperation of a number of Russian and international organizations.

Preparation and removal of the RA reactor SNF from Vinca Institute, Serbia
Mission: Possible!

In December 2010, the large project on removal of almost 2.5 tons of significantly degraded fuel was completed. This event evoked a wide response and appraisal of the international community.

BBC - News Europe: A secret journey to take Serbian nuclear fuel to safety
BBC - News Europe: Inside Serbia's decommissioned Vinca nuclear facility
IAEA.Org - Top Stories & Features: Massive Operation Safely Secures Serbian Nuclear Fuel in Russia
IAEA.Org - Video Clips: Vinca - Nuclear Fuel Leaves Serbia
IAEA.Org - Top Stories & Features: Q&A: Fuel Repatriation Project from Vinca Institute

IAEA - A newsletter of the Division of Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Waste Technology. Vol.7,No.1,May 2011

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