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Belarus plans to set up national operator for radioactive waste management

MINSK, 22 July (BelTA) – Belarus is planning to set up a special department and a national operator for radioactive waste management, Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko said as he hosted a meeting with senior members of the Council of Ministers on 22 July, BelTA has learned.

An appropriate legislative draft has been submitted for consideration of the head of state. The government proposes to set up a special department for radioactive waste management and a specialized organization that will act as a national operator and will collect, process, store and dispose of such waste.

“We need to decide what we will do with radioactive waste. It is created in the process of operation of ionizing radiation sources, which we, indeed, actively use in various fields. It's not just a nuclear power plant. We use these sources in science, medicine (oncology and other fields), industry, and the defense complex. In the near future, we will put into operation the second unit of the Belarusian nuclear power plant, which will become the main source of radioactive waste that is generated during its life cycle.

The president noted that nuclear waste is not just a hazardous product. It is also a very valuable raw material. “This is a very valuable product. Today we need to decide what we will do with this most valuable but very hazardous product that we have not dealt with before,” the head of state said. “As international practice shows, the management of such waste requires an integrated state system. In fact, this is a new branch of the economy."

The government has prepared this proposal relying on the findings of the interdepartmental group and taking into consideration several circumstances, Energy Minister Viktor Karankevich explained during the meeting. “The country uses sources of ionizing radiation in various fields, during the operation of which radioactive waste is formed. This waste is supplied and stored at the special enterprise Ekores subordinate to the Minsk city administration. The technologies that are used at this enterprise are morally and physically outdated. The radioactive waste storage facilities built in the 1960-70s require modernization. They have long exceeded their service life,” the minister informed.

In addition, according to him, the country needs to address the issues of management of radioactive waste which is stored in the so-called historical storage depots set up as part of the military programs of the Soviet Union. “With the commissioning of the Belarusian nuclear power plant, we have got a large source of radioactive waste. Accordingly, this necessitates building a separate facility for the storage of radioactive waste for the period of operation of the nuclear power plant," Viktor Karankevich added.

"We propose to address these issues in a comprehensive way and set up a single body of state administration and a single system for radioactive waste management," he summed up.