RAAN – SITON: FOCUSING ON THE STRATEGIC AREA OF THE DEEP GEOLOGIC DISPOSAL OF RADIOACTIVE WASTE
In recent years, RAAN – SITON, a subsidiary of Technology and Engineering for Nuclear Projects and a major contributor to Romanian investments in the nuclear field, has concentrated its focus on a new field of research – the development of challenging path-related deep geological disposal of radioactive waste.
This approach, not surprisingly, exploits fully the enthusiasm, commitment and professional skills of all researchers involved in the development and application of technical solutions for radioactive waste management in Romania. The strength of the organisation consists in its cooperation and continuous upgrading of the knowledge of the existing workforce, as well as in the continuous training and support that it provides for personnel with regards to future projects.
The National Radioactive Waste Management Strategy, which was developed by what used to be ANDRAD (today called AN&DR), has been integrated into the National Nuclear Policy and is supported by regulators, scientists, designers, technological engineers.
RAAN – SITON, in cooperation with other research institutes and regulatory bodies, has launched a new research initiative related to the safe final disposal of spent fuel and high-level waste. In 2008, SITON developed an R&D programme, coordinated by AN&DR, focusing on deep geological alternatives. This research was financed by the Ministry of Economy and Finances and carried out as part of a regional R&D programme.
Romania is a small country with a high population density. This fact, together with Romania’s rich array of natural resources (oil & natural gas deposits, mineral ores, geothermal waters, forests etc.), could present difficulties when siting a geologic repository, and many apparently acceptable locations have had to be excluded from the selection process - even when they satisfied the IAEA selection criteria for host rock formation. SITON, together with other partners, were pioneers in efforts made to identify a portfolio of host rock formations for a national final repository for spent fuel and long-life wastes.
The organisation produced documentation based on the research of specialised literature in order to emphasise the necessity for consistent R&D programmes aimed at finding appropriate locations for a Geologic Repository (GR) and identifying the most favorable host rock formation. Even though research into geological environments’ suitability for final disposal of spent fuel and high level wastes is still in the early stages, RAAN – SITON and its partners anticipated that there would be issues of considerable interest to consider for the demonstration of a conceptual design for a GR. So, RAAN – SITON is a supporter of the development of an underground laboratory capable of performing large scale experiments into potential host rock formations in order to demonstrate the suitability of a final deep geological repository.
Because there are many specific constraints in Romania (geological, economic, demographic, etc.), RAAN – SITON took into account other designers’ experiences in countries with old nuclear programmes and considered the option of waste “co-localisation.” Accordingly, researchers from SITON are involved in a study into the possible long-term evolution of a disposal facility for spent fuel and long-life radioactive wastes that anaylses scenarios involving possible chemical alteration in both the neighbouring and wider environments. For these scenarios it is necessary to develop mechanical and kinetic models in order to study if any impairment exists to the long-term serviceability of spent fuel canisters or if there are any other engineering/natural barriers.
The data obtained was considered valuable as a preliminary input for selecting container materials to be used in an intended Romanian deep geological repository. So, research activities in support of deep geological disposal in Romania have been extended to include the integration of natural analogues, archaeological data and geological mapping data in order to facilitate a final decision and to help with the extrapolation of the long-term serviceability of engineered barriers.
RAAN-SITON is recognised by the Romanian Nuclear Authority (CNCAN) as a national organisation specialised in carrying out design activities and other kind of services, including research and development projects for other nuclear projects in Romania. RAAN-SITON also guarantees a high level of professionalism, efficiency and competence.
Author: Raluka Fako, PhD, Eng., Romanian Authority for Nuclear Activities, Subsidiary of Technology and Engneering for Nuclear Projects