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Public participation in decision making

Radioactive waste




What decision-making processes can the public participate in?

The public can be involved in taking the following key decisions in the field of nuclear energy:

- evaluation of the nuclear facility construction site assessment report;

- issuance of licences:

-for construction and operation of nuclear facilities;
-for decommissioning of the nuclear facility;
-for supervision of a closed radioactive waste repository (or repositories);


-revocation of the license for decommissioning of the nuclear facility (facilities);

- issuance of permits:

-for first delivery of nuclear fuel to the site of a nuclear power plant, nuclear power plant unit or a research nuclear reactor (when this permit is issued to the holders of a joint license for the construction and operation of a nuclear power facility (facilities));


-for first delivery of nuclear or nuclear fuel cycle materials to the site of a nuclear facility, except for a nuclear power plant unit and a research nuclear reactor; for the first test while using nuclear and/or nuclear fuel cycle materials (so-called hot tests) in these nuclear facilities (when this permit is issued to the holders of a joint license for construction and operation of a nuclear power facility (facilities).

All decisions are referred to in Article 39¹ of the Law on Nuclear Safety.

The public can participate in the decision-making processes of the aforementioned decisions as of October 2017, after coming into force of Amendment of the Law on Nuclear Safety, transposing the COUNCIL DIRECTIVE 2014/87/EURATOM of 8 July 2014 amending Directive 2009/71/Euratom establishing a Community framework for the nuclear safety of nuclear installations (Amendment of the Nuclear Safety Directive), and Nuclear Safety Requirements BSR-1.1.5-2017 „Rules of Procedure for Public Participation in Decision-making in the Area of Nuclear Energy“.

How can the public participate in the decision-making process?

Public participation in decision-making in the field of nuclear energy is divided into the following stages/steps:

1) VATESI and the economic entity inform the public about the initiation of the decision-making process (e.g., regarding a license to construct or operate a radioactive waste repository, to decommission a radioactive waste storage facility or a nuclear power plant);

2) the public access the documents necessary for making the specified decisions and submit their comments, information, analyses or proposals regarding these documents to the economic entity in writing by a requested manner;

3) the public access the draft decisions of VATESI and submit their comments, information, analyses or proposals regarding the specified draft decisions in writing in the manner specified by VATESI.

In the case of a large number of proposals, in order to provide the public with more efficient and expeditious access to information, economic entity or VATESI can organize a public deliberation (optional) of the documents required for the decision-making submitted by economic entity or final drafts of the VATESI decisions.

Public participation in decision-making process sheme

Time limits for accessing the documents and submitting proposals

The public have the right to access the documents necessary for taking specified decisions and submit proposals to the economic entity within 1 month after informing about the start of process and when the documents are submitted according to a schedule – within 1 month after informing about the submission of the documents to VATESI.

Within 20 business days of receiving the proposals regarding documents necessary for taking referred decisions the economic entity shall inform the persons who submitted proposals in writing about the assessment of the proposals and about the reasons for not taking the proposals into account or for taking them into account only to a certain extent. The economic entity shall provide this information to each person who submitted the proposal or shall publish the information on the internet.

Public can access the draft decisions and submit proposals to VATESI in writing within 2 months on the evaluation of the nuclear facility construction site assessment report and issuance of licenses and within 1 month on issuance of permits (all are specified in question 1).

Information about the assessment of submitted proposals regarding draft decision and responses to it shall be published together with the final decision on the VATESI website.


What is the public deliberation?

A public deliberation is not mandatory, but it can be organized when there are many proposals in order to give the public more efficient and faster access to information related to the specified decisions.

Such deliberation may be organized on the initiative of the economic entity (regarding the documents required for making decisions) or VATESI (regarding the final drafts of decisions) before making the final decision. During the public deliberation, organizers present the content of the documents, the received proposals, discuss and explain why and which proposals will not be taken into account, and additional proposals are heard.

Time Limits for Decision Making

VATESI shall make referred decisions within these time limits:

- decision on the evaluation of the nuclear facility construction site assessment report – not later than within 12 months from the date of receipt of all duly executed documents. This time limit may be extended once for a further period of not more than 30 days;

- decision on issuance of licenses for construction, operation and decommissioning of nuclear facilities specified in question 1 – not later than within 24 months;

- decision on issuance a licence for supervision of a closed radioactive waste repository (or repositories) – within 12 months;

- decision on issuance of permits specified in question 1 – within 4 months from the date of receipt of all duly executed documents. This time limit may be extended once for a further period of not more than 30 days.



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Radioactive Waste

Radioactive waste is spent fuel and other solid, liquid or gaseous radioactive materials which are not destined for re-use and do not meet the criteria for clearance and is subject of regulatory control by the regulatory body.

The main source of radioactive waste generation in Lithuania is the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant (hereinafter - Ignalina NPP). It generates more than 99.9% of all radioactive waste. Radioactive waste is also generated from the use of radioactive sources and materials in medical institutions, scientific laboratories and industry. Radioactive waste is managed in radioactive waste management facilities.

Classification of radioactive waste

Radioactive waste has a variety of physical and chemical properties and are classified into short-lived and long-lived according to the concentration of long-lived radionuclides in them.

According to the risks to humans and the environment, radioactive waste is classified into very low, low and intermediate, and very radioactive. Another group of radioactive waste is spent sealed radioactive sources.

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Radioactive waste at nuclear facilities of Lithuania:

•    Spent nuclear fuel and other long-lived radioactive waste
•    Short-lived low and intermediate-level radioactive waste
•    Short-lived very low-level radioactive waste
•    Disused sealed sources

Depending on the type of state, radioactive waste can be gaseous, solid or liquid.

Gaseous radioactive waste are radioactive substances in the gaseous state or radioactive substances in the form of dust (aerosols). The release of it into the environment is limited by determining the limit activities of radionuclides released into the environment in accordance with the requirements in force in Lithuania.

Solid radioactive waste in Lithuania, according to radiological properties and technological management characteristics, is classified as short-lived very low-level (class A), short-lived low-level (class B), short-lived intermediate-level (class C), long-lived low-level (Class D) and long-lived intermediate-level (Class E). Spent sealed sources of ionizing radiation are assigned to a separate class of radioactive waste (Class F). Spent nuclear fuel belongs to high-level radioactive waste (class G). The radioactive waste classes are also related to the intended way and type of disposal of the waste at the radioactive waste repository.

Depending on the radioactive waste treatment methods used, solid radioactive waste is further divided into combustible, non-combustible, compressible, non-compressible and untreatable. Wastes in which the specific activities of the radionuclides do not exceed clearance  levels of radioactivity, and in which the waste contains several types of radionuclides and the sum of their activity concentrations and the clearance levels ratios  does not exceed 1, are classified as cleared from authorised practices waste and can be reused or treated as normal non-radioactive waste.

Liquid radioactive waste (contaminated nuclear facility technological water, such as water used in the cooling of reactors and other nuclear facilities use, or contaminated water used for cleaning the filter material) are classified according to their existing radionuclide activity: up to 4 · 105 Bq/l waste as low level radioactive and 4 · 105 Bq/l (inclusive) – intermediate level radioactive waste. Liquid radioactive waste from Ignalina NPP is finally treated by solidification.  

Initially, contaminated water is stored in storage tanks and later evaporated. Vapor condensate is filtered through ion exchange resin and perlite powder to reduce the amount of radionuclides in it. The treated water is returned to the process water cycle. During evaporation, some of the radionuclides remain in the concentrate, so this concentrate is stored in a special tanks. During the operation of the Ignalina NPP and later until 2015, the concentrate was bituminized (mixed with pure bitumen) in two bitumen facilities. This bitumen mixture is stored in special containers in the bituminous waste storage facility.

Sediments from concentrate, ion exchange resins from Ignalina NPP water treatment and liquid waste treatment systems, filter aid (perlite) are cemented in the cementing facility. The mixture of these materials and cement is poured into drums and placed in concrete storage containers, which are transported to a nearby located cemented waste storage facility. Ignalina NPP plans to cement the radioactive evaporation concentrate, which was previously bituminized.

Solidification method is applicable to all liquid radioactive waste accumulated during the operation and decommissioning of Ignalina NPP, and after solidification it is further managed as solid radioactive waste.

Untreated solid radioactive waste generated since the start of operation of the Ignalina NPP is stored in the radioactive waste storage facilities located in the territory of the power plant. In order to dispose of this waste, it must be removed from storage facilities, sorted, characterized, treated and placed in repositories for ensuring long-term passive safety. For this purpose, SE Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant has built a solid radioactive waste treatment and storage facilities, where solid radioactive waste will be sorted, characterized, treated (pressed, incinerated) and immobilized (cemented) in various ways. Two separate radioactive waste storage facilities for short-lived and long-lived radioactive waste were constructed. Hot tests of the complex's equipment are currently underway. Waste in this complex will be treated and stored until the Ignalina NPP is dismantled and repositories are built. Then this waste will be transferred to the constructed repositories.

Most of the waste generated during the operation of the Ignalina NPP is short-lived, very low level- radioactive solid (Class A) and low and intermediate level radioactive waste (Class B and C). The amount of this treated waste prepared for storage or repositories will continue to increase until the dismantling of power units are completed, as decontamination (removal radioactive materials from the surfaces) of all dismantled equipment and buildings and then their use in industry or disposal of them as ordinary waste is not always possible or appropriate.

The final way to dispose of radioactive waste is to put it in radioactive waste repositories. Short-lived very low level radioactive waste repository (capacity of 60,000 m3) and repository for low and intermediate level radioactive waste (capacity of 100,000 m3) are under construction. Long-lived and highly radioactive waste must be disposed of in a deep geological repository. The project of the latter repository is just at the beginning phase (research, preparation of initial documents, setting the site selection criteria).

Spent nuclear fuel and other long-lived radioactive waste

Spent fuel is nuclear fuel that has been removed from the reactor after use and is considered not suitable for further use. Spent nuclear fuel is classified as highly radioactive long-lived radioactive waste. It can be reprocessed, releasing useful materials for reuse in a reactor for energy production, or treated as radioactive waste.

Long-lived radioactive waste is waste that contains high amount of radionuclides with a half-life of more than 30 years. In addition to spent nuclear fuel, this type of radioactive waste also includes activated metal parts of reactors and fuel assemblies, fuel channels, reactor graphite, parts of the control and protection system.

This waste has accumulated during the operation of the Ignalina NPP, is also generated during the decommissioning and dismantling of the power plant, and it is stored in the Ignalina NPP storage facilities.

A small part of long-lived radioactive waste generated before 1989 during industrial, medical and scientific activities is accumulated and stored in the closed Maišiagala Radioactive Waste Storage Facility.

In Lithuania, spent nuclear fuel accumulated during the operation period of the Ignalina NPP is not reprocessed. After unloading from the reactor, it is stored for several years in cooling pools installed next to the reactor, where the water cools it continuously, because the radioactive substances accumulated in the spent fuel emit a large amount of heat. The fuel is stored in the pools for at least 6,5 years, then removed, placed in special containers and stored in dry-type spent nuclear fuel storage facilities near the Ignalina NPP. It is planned to remove all fuel from the cooling pools of both Ignalina NPP power units by the end of 2022.

The accumulated solid long-lived radioactive waste from the old radioactive waste storages will be transported to treatment facilities, where it will be sorted according to radiological properties and packed in to radioactive waste packages meeting the acceptance criteria, then placed to the new storage facilities.

About 3,800 tons of graphite were used in the construction of both reactors and reactor channels at the Ignalina NPP. During the dismantling of the reactor, the graphite will have to be removed and safely disposed of. Part of the graphite (reactor channel graphite) will be placed in special steel drums that will be placed in concrete containers. About 6.5 percent of total graphite will be treated this way.

Both spent nuclear fuel and other long-lived radioactive waste will be stored in special storage facilities temporarily, for about 50 years, and later disposed of in a deep geological repository. This waste will remain radioactive for thousands of years, but due to the natural and created engineering barriers of a deep geological repository, it will not pose a risk to humans and the environment.

It is important to note that spent nuclear fuel imported from other countries is not stored in Lithuania. This prohibition is enshrined in the provisions of the Law on Radioactive Waste Management of the Republic of Lithuania.

Short-lived low and intermediate-level radioactive waste

Short-lived low and intermediate-level radioactive waste is short-lived waste with a dose rate above 0.2 mSv/h from the surface. This waste is generated during repairs, small-scale works in the central hall of Ignalina NPP or in the hall of spent nuclear fuel cooling pools, and during dismantling of equipment in decommissioning process. This type of radioactive waste includes worn or dismantled equipment, pipes, structural elements, construction waste.

Short-lived low and intermediate level radioactive waste is treated in special radioactive waste management facilities. First, the waste is compressed to reduce its volume. Then it is placed in concrete containers, cemented and stored in storage facilities at the Ignalina NPP site. In the future, this waste will be transported to the surface low and intermediate-level radioactive waste repository, which institutional control after closure will take 300 years, until it will not pose a risk to humans and the environment.

Short-lived very low level radioactive waste

Short-lived very low level radioactive waste is waste with a dose rate of less than 0.2 mSv/h from the surface. Therefore, this waste is managed using simple natural and artificial barriers, such as trenches or landfills.

Short-lived very low level radioactive waste is generated during the repair of Ignalina NPP equipment and cleaning of premises, also during decommissioning process. These can be waste of paper and wool, pieces of electrical cables, filters, metal parts of equipment, rubber and thermal insulation materials, construction waste. This waste remains hazardous for about 100 years. In order to protect people and the environment, short-lived very low level radioactive waste is placed in metal containers, compressible waste is compressed into bundles, which are wrapped in polyethylene film or placed in flexible plastic containers (FIBC package) and stored in the Ignalina NPP territory. Later, accumulated waste will be placed into very low level radioactive waste repository.

It is important to note, that some lightly contaminated radioactive waste may be decontaminated, that is, radioactive material may be removed from the surfaces of equipment, structures or parts thereof in a special way. After decontamination, this waste is verified with special intended devices to measure whether materials and wastes correspond to the clearance condition by determining the concentration of radionuclides. If waste no longer needs to be controlled from the point of view of radiation protection, it can be used and handled in the usual way. For example, some equipment or metal parts may continue to be used in industry or construction waste may be treated as normal.

Disused sealed sources

High-activity sealed radioactive sources are used in medicine (for example, to treat cancer). In industry, sealed radioactive sources are often used in defectoscopes, smoke detectors, and other measuring or quality assurance equipment. Sealed radioactive sources are also used in research. Medical, industrial or scientific organisations primarily seek to return spent sealed radioactive sources to their manufacturers. Those sources that cannot be returned to the producers (due to the bankruptcy of the producers or other circumstances) must be treated as radioactive waste, taking into account their radiological properties. Some sources can be kept in storage facilities for an appropriate period of time until the radionuclides decay and then they can be treated as normal waste. Others should be placed in radioactive waste repositories according to the acceptance criteria.

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Updated: 14-07-2022