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Disposal Site for Radioactive Waste in Armenia


Research on Selection of the Long-Term Disposal Site for the Radioactive Waste of the Armenian Nuclear Power Plant (Phase I: Selection of Suitable Sites)

Tech Area / Field

  • ENV-SEM/Seismic Monitoring/Environment
  • ENV-WDS/Waste Disposal/Environment

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
National Survey for Seismic Protection of RA, Armenia, Yerevan

Supporting institutes

  • Armenian Nuclear Regulatory Authority, Armenia, Yerevan\nCenter for Ecological Noosphere Studies, Armenia, Yerevan\nScientific Research Company GEORISK, Armenia, Yerevan\nUnited Service of Seismic Protection, Georgia, Tbilisi\nA.I. Alikhanyan National Science Laboratory, Armenia, Yerevan\nInstitute of Geological Sciences, Armenia, Yerevan


  • Societa Gestione Impianti Nucleari (SO.G.I.N), Italy, Rome\nInstitut de Protection et de Surete Nucleaire, France, Fontenay aux Roses\nRadioactive Waste Management Funding and Research Center (RWMC), Japan, Tokyo\nUniversite Montpellier II, France, Montpellier\nLawrence Berkeley National Laboratory / Earth Sciences Division, USA, CA, Berkeley\nCoppersmith Consulting Inc., USA, CA, Walnut Greek\nEuropean Commission / Joint Research Center / Institute for Systems, Informatics and Safety, Italy, Ispra\nUS Geological Survey, USA, VA, Reston\nAgenzia Nazionale per la Protezione dell Ambiente (ANPA), Italy, Rome

Project summary

The problem of providing a permanent and reliable method for isolating radioactive waste (RAW) from the biosphere is a topic of great concern among both the more advanced and the developing nations of the world. In countries with nuclear power programs, concern is centered on high-level radioactive wastes (HLW).
The general consensus is that adequate isolation can be accomplished by selecting an appropriate geological setting. The geological disposal of the waste is more preferable, because the medium itself is a natural barrier for radionuclide transportation to the environment.
The aim of this Work Plan is to find a place for the isolation of RAW in a geological medium in the territory of Armenia.
For Armenia the mentioned problem is of great importance, for the following reasons:
the Armenian Nuclear Power Plant (ANPP) has been functioning since December 1976. The ANPP comprises two WER-440 reactors with 420MW of power, which were manufactured in the Russian Federation. During the first period of operation the ANPP power was about 850MW. After 13 years of uninterrupted operation it was stopped in 1989 after the catastrophic Spitak Earthquake of December 7, 1988. The ANPP restarted operation in the fall of 1995, and the second unit (one of two reactors) now successfully operates at approximately 300MW;
the spent fuel coming from ANPP has been partially transported to the Russian Federation for long-term storage and will not return to Armenia, while a part of it is stored in interim spent fuel storage pools. In compliance with worldwide practices, medium-term dry storage was constructed and the license for operation was issued in 2000 by the regulatory authority. The volume of radioactive waste constantly increases and this causes a serious problem of its long-term safe disposal. A certain amount of RAW is also accumulated due to the activities of certain medical, industrial, research and other enterprises.
After 25 years of ANPP operation, there is still no National Action Plan of RAW, where the problem of RAW disposal has a special significance. The National Action Plan of RAW, where the problem of RAW disposal should be determined on the basis of repository creation in one’s own territory, or on the basis of the widely-discussed, but as yet unplanned international repository, or other possibilities (an agreement with a separate country), can be solved only as a result of implementation of the present Work Plan and the answer to the question – is long-term RAW disposal possible in Armenia? If the answer to this question is affirmative, the location of the respective sites must be ascertained (in terms of geological medium and geographical position). Moreover, the potential development of the nuclear industry in Armenia depends on the answer to this main question.
For Armenia with its small territory and relatively small volumes of HLW at present, which is especially important in light of the difficult economical condition, the most acceptable solution to the problem (from an economical, social and political point of view) would be its participation in the construction and further disposal of RAW outside its territory.
The research of site selection for disposal of RAW in a geological medium should be conducted in accordance with recommendations of the IAEA Safety Guides, including four main stages:
conceptual planning
area survey
site characterization
site confirmation.
During Work Plan implementation a step-by-step approach will be applied for the problem solution, which will result in a gradual narrowing of area selection, from large regions to specific sites.
The complexity and responsibility of the stated task, and the need for its stage-by-stage solution requires a large contribution of financial and human resources, and a large volume of field activities.
During Work Plan implementation, seismological, geophysical, geological, hydrogeological, geochemical, tectonic, seismotectonic, volcanological, climatological, ecological and laboratory research will be carried out.
Work Plan participants from Armenia include:
1. National Survey for Seismic Protection under the Government of RA, (NSSP)
2. Institute of Geological Sciences of NAS Armenia (IGS)
4. Center of Ecological-Noosphere Studies of NAS Armenia (CENS)
5. Armenian Nuclear Regulatory Authority of RA (ANRA)
6. Yerevan Physics Institute of NAS Armenia (YerPHI)

Participants from Georgia:
United National Survey of Seismic Protection under the Georgian Academy of Sciences (UNSSP)
The participating Institutes have long-standing research experience in the mentioned fields. The main scientific and engineering potential of the Republic in Earth Sciences is concentrated in these institutions. The Institutes have participated in re-evaluating seismic and geological conditions of an Armenian NPP site, initiated by the IAEA after its restart.
The Work Plan for final site selection, for the construction of a RAW repository will include two main phases:
I. Conceptual planning, area survey, compilation of Site Characterization Program;
II. Site characterization, site confirmation.
The first phase will last 3 years, as stated in the present Work Plan. During this time it will be impossible to implement the second phase, owing to the required large amount of field works
Therefore, the first phase, lasting 3 years, will be completed in the framework of the proposed Work Plan.
As a result 4 or 5 sites (if possible), suitable for radioactive waste disposal will be selected and a Site Characterization Program will be developed for further detailed investigation and confirmation.
The second phase of the site characterization and confirmation, to be conducted in accordance with a special three-year program, will be developed and presented for funding upon completion of the first phase, i.e. after implementation of the proposed Work Plan.
For successful realization of set objectives the Work Plan envisages fulfillment of the following tasks:

1. Development of the concept of site selection
2. Database development
3. Seismic hazard assessment
4. Geological, geotechnical and geophysical assessment
5. Tectonic studies
6. Hydrogeological, hydrological and geomorphological assessment
7. Volcanic and geochemical assessment
8. Ecological, climatological, social-economical and infrastructure assessment
9. Field inspection for distinguished areas
10. Preliminary complex investigation of favorable sites
11. Compilation of Site Characterization Program (SCP) for selected site.

Taking into account the special importance and regional significance of Task 1 – “Development of the concept of site selection”, and with an aim to involve various regional organizations in Work Plan implementation, it is suggested that two Workshops be arranged during the first 12 months with the participation of representatives from the participant-organizations, collaborators and experts from Azerbaijan, Russia, Iran and Turkey.
The First Workshop will be devoted to discussion of the concept of RAW Management and site selection for RAW disposal in the region and conformity of the Work Plan tasks with international safety standards for RAW repositories.
Resulting from discussions the concept of site selection for RAW disposal in Armenia will be made more precise, the Work Plan will be corrected in accordance with suggestions and comments, and a regional database will be completed with data obtained from Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Russia.
A second workshop, involving representatives from participant-organizations, collaborators and experts from the countries of the region, will be devoted to determining the role and form of participation of organizations from Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Russia in implementation of the Work Plan .
The Work Plan will take advantage of existing data, develop new databases for national uses, boost new scientific investigations and development of methodologies for radioactive safety of the environment. Obtained results will be transmitted to appropriate organizations for the design of RAW repositories. Moreover, the results of the proposed Work Plan could be used for the design of chemical waste repositories.
The Work Plan will provide weapons scientists and engineers the opportunity to redirect their knowledge and skills to peaceful activities. It will also support research and technology development in environmental protection and nuclear safety.
Foreign collaborators will cooperate with participants of the Work Plan in the following:

- Serving on technical advisory committees for each area of the project, providing input and guidance for project implementation and participation in regular meetings
- Data exchange during Work Plan implementation
- Peer review of project results
- Participation in semi-annual project review meetings
- Comments and peer review for technical reports presented to the ISTC
- Joint symposia and seminars
- Collaboration in scientific exchange in various investigation areas
- Complementary activity through leveraging funds from related projects funded by other agencies
- Providing opportunities for hosting Work Plan participants at western universities and laboratories
- Dissemination of validated Project results as widely as possible and identification of other sources of support
- Finally the participants believe that collaboration undertaken to address RAW safety management through the establishment of this Work Plan shall serve as a model for establishing other collaborative efforts among other parties in the region.