RADIOACTIVE DUMPS - NECESSARY AND UNWANTED
After passing the Act on Safety Use of Nuclear Energy in the beginning of 2004, the state-run Radioactive Wastes enterprise was set up. Our operation includes the entire cycle of using, processing and storage of sources of ionized radiation, and the distribution of money from the Radioactive Wastes fund to the places where sources of radiation are stored, the company's Executive Director Dipl. Eng. Anton Ivanov explained to the BANKER weekly. There are two such places at present: the dump at the Kozlodoui N-plant and the one near the Novi Han village (Sofia region). The specifics and maintenance of each of them are entirely different. Even experts in the energy branch are not fully aware of this fact. The responsibility for nuclear materials in Kozlodoui belongs to the operator, i.e. to the N-plant. That is why there is a special workshop in Kozlodoui for processing and storage of exhausted nuclear fuel and radioactive nuclear wastes. The wastes from the research reactor in Sofia are also transported there. Wastes of low and medium radioactivity from industry, medicine, agriculture and education are stored in the dump near Novi Han. The Radioactive Wastes enterprise is occupied with them. Despite its short history, the The Radioactive Wastes enterprise faces serious problems. The main one is the dump near Novi Han. In the beginning of 2005 an indirect argument began between the state-run company and two NGOs: the Novi Han - an European Settlement non-profit association and the Green Bulgaria Movement. Environmentalists bestired themselves after PHARE's managing committee in Brussels approved seven projects for improving the ways for radioactive wastes storage in the dump. One of them is connected with the enlargement of the Novi Han dump. EUR7.09MN has been earmarked for the purpose (EUR820,000 of it from the national budget). Another 150 dca of municipal forests will have to be destroyed for the construction of the new capacities: three workshops and a combustion chamber, claims Dipl. Eng. Ognyan Chipev, Chairman of the Novi Han - and European Settlement association. Protesters point out as well that the dump is dangerously close to the neighbouring population centres. With 6 km are the villages Novi Han, Gabra and Krushovitsa, and three villa zones - Pobit Kamak, Cheturlaka and Gladno Pole. The more than 4,000 people living there threaten to block the nearby Trakiya motorway if the modernization begins. Two interesting controversies were outlined in the argument. NGOs pour their anger entirely on the Radioactive Wastes enterprise and its managers, although it is not the dump's operator yet. Because of the legal procedures that will become a fact only in mid-2005. Till then the dump will be managed by the Institute of Nuclear Research and Atomic Energy with the Bulgarian Academy of Science. The other issue, according to Mr. Ivanov, is purely social: On one hand, the public is interested in managing radioactive wastes by more contemporary means, and on the other hand it is in the way of introducing such modern equipment. Presently, the dump has every legal ground for accepting radioactive wastes. Therefore, they will continue to go there, even if it is not modernized. Our aim is to improve control in accepting them, as well as guarantee the right choice of storage packings. All this is done in order to obtain higher security and protection against radiation, including that of the personnel working there. The manager of Radioactive Wastes is adamant there is no danger about the population in the region because the dump is a passive facility. Its containers are highly resistant to earthquakes and other mechanical harms or terrorist attacks. Long-time practice in West European countries shows that processing and storage of radioactive wastes is quite an expensive undertaking. The Bulgarian Radioactive Wastes enterprise cannot boast of much money. Its annual budget does not exceed BGN10MN. In fact, each year the company has to prove the exact amount it will need and it is afterwards approved or corrected by the Management Board of the Radioactive Wastes fund. About 90% of the fund's money go to the enterprise and the balance of 10% finance other activities. According to article 92 of the Act on Safety Use of Nuclear Energy, the money in the fund is raised by juristic and natural persons who generate radioactive wastes as a result of their operation. They pay certain fees, but they are quite low and should be raised, Mr. Ivanov believes. Financing in the other countries where such enterprises exist is much higher. I expect that to happen in Bulgaria gradually. It will concern mostly the fees, paid for the radioactive wastes we store, Mr. Ivanov said. But for the time being the state-run enterprise seems a bit overlooked. It employs only 20 persons, while the personnel occupied with radioactive wastes in the Kozlodoui N-plant is 190.