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Published: 14 december 2012 17:48

CEO of Ignalina NPP: Solutions on spent fuel storage facility will have to be found by March

Žilvinas Jurkšus
Jurgitos Lapienytės nuotr. / Žilvinas Jurkšus

Lithuania has until late March to find a solution for the unloading of nuclear fuel from the second unit of Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), CEO of the facility has said in response to a decision by the European donors to suspend funding for the spent nuclear fuel storage facility, which is the largest project in the decommissioning of the plant.

If no solutions are found, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has threatened to stop funding for a contract with the German consortium of Russian-owned Nukem and GNS altogether, Žilvinas Jurkšus said.

He pointed out, however, that the security of the facility, which was shut down in late 2009, should not be a matter of concern.

“Nothing changes as far as security is concerned. There is nothing to be worried about in this respect. One-third of fuel from the second unit has already been moved to temporary pools. There cannot be any emergencies,” Jurkšus told BNS on Friday.

The donors’ decision concerned temporary suspension of around 100 million euros in funding for the project, which was worth about 193 million euros in total, he added.

Around 60 percent of the amount of money due for the project works had already been paid, Jurkšus said adding that the bulk of that sum comprised payment for 77 casks. Overall, 146 out of 190 casks had been manufactured already.

The donors’ decision did not imply that no money would be provided for fuel management, Ignalina NPP CEO said. “This money is not being taken away and it remains in the decommissioning fund. No new payments will be made to contractors until 31 March. If we reach an agreement earlier, it will be allowed to resume them earlier.”

Jurkšus told BNS that the decision taken by the European donors’ assembly had not come as a surprise. Such a possibility was first mentioned around a year ago and in June the donors obliged Lithuania to provide an action plan by December, which was actually done in London on Thursday.

A certain progress in talks with the consortium of Nukem and GNS had been made since June, Ignalina NPP CEO said. However, it still could not be stated with certainty that the solution would be found by 31 March.

“No sound decisions have been provided as of today, and the contractor continues to make promises to provide them. I don’t know whether anything could change all of a sudden and whether the solutions will be tabled. Anything may happen. But in certain cases we shall also get ready for an alternative solution... We either find the solution for the removal of fuel by 31 March or the funding for this contract may be stopped,” Jurkšus said.

Under the contract with the consortium of Nukem and GNS, which was signed back in 2005, the storage facility had to be built by 2009. However, the project hit many delays caused by both parties and its price tag continued to grow. Moreover, it was found out that the casks being manufactured by GNS did not comply with technical specifications. According to the latest verbal agreement, the project should be completed by the end of 2013, yet Jurkšus believes that the year 2014 is a more likely term.

“These terms are not acceptable either to us or the European Commission,” Jurkšus told BNS.

B1 – the spent nuclear fuel storage facility project – is the largest in the decommissioning of Ignalina NPP. It has triggered many disputes between Nukem and the Lithuanian government, which is dissatisfied with the quality of fuel storage casks offered by Nukem’s subcontractor, Germany’s GNS.

According to information available to BNS, before the conference, Lithuania's Energy Ministry sent a letter with a proposal to consider suspension of funding for Nukem projects.

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