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Nuclear Facilities and Radioactive Waste Repositories

Nuclear facilities and radioactive waste repository situated in Poland, nuclear power plants of neighbouring countries located not far from Poland’s borders, facilities involving re-processing and storing of radioactive material and other users of ionizing radiation sources constitute potential sources of radiation hazards in Poland.

In accordance with the Atomic Law, nuclear facilities in Poland include: the MARIA research reactor, the EWA research reactor (the first research reactor in Poland, operated between 1958-1995 and decommissioned to the brown field since 1995) as well as spent fuel storages (facilities 19 and 19A). These facilities are situated in Swierk at two separate organizational entities: the MARIA research reactor – at the National Centre for Nuclear Research and decommissioned EWA research reactor as well as facilities No 19 and 19A at the Radioactive Waste Management Plant. The Radioactive Waste Management Plant is also operating the National Radioactive Waste Repository in Rozan. According to the Atomic Law, Heads of these entities are responsible for the safety of operation and physical protection of these facilities.


The MARIA research reactor

The MARIA research reactor is at present the only operating nuclear reactor in Poland. It is a high-neutron flux pool reactor, water cooled and water and beryllium moderated, with design nominal thermal power of 30 MWt. The maximum density of the thermal neutron flux in the core is in the order of 1014 n/cm2s.

The MARIA reactor has been in operation since December 1974 at the Institute for Nuclear Research, then, since 1983 at the Institute of Atomic Energy in Swierk. In years 1985-1993 the reactor operation was stopped for its essential modernization. Since 2011 the reactor has been operated by the National Centre for Nuclear Research.

MARIA reactor pool

From April 1999 to June 2002 the reactor core was converted from highly enriched uranium (80%) to highly enriched uranium fuel (36%). In the years 2012-2014 the reactor core was further converted to low- enriched fuel LEU (concentration of U235 is below 20%). At present the fuel is 19.75% enriched Uranium 235 enclosed in Aluminium cladding. Each fuel element is placed in a pressurized Field type tube and is capable of giving maximum thermal power 1.8 MWt and neutron flux of 3x1014 n/cm2s. The  fuel channels are placed in a beryllium metal matrix and are cooled with water.

The MARIA reactor is used for irradiation of Uranium targets necessary for the production of radioisotopes for medical purposes, for conducting research (mainly in the area of condensed matter physics) with the use of horizontal channels, for irradiation of crystals, applied research, for example with the use of neutron activation analysis, and finally for training purposes.


The Ewa research reactor

Apart from the MARIA research reactor, in years 1958-1995 the EWA research reactor was also operated at the Institute of Nuclear Research (later – the Institute of Atomic Energy). Initially, the reactor’s thermal power was 2 MWt, however it was increased to 10 MWt.

The process of reactor decommissioning was started in 1997 and in 2002 the so called “end of phase two” was achieved. That means that all nuclear fuel and all irradiated structures and components, which have activity levels hazardous from the radiological protection viewpoint, were removed from the reactor. Further works were suspended and as for now it is not planned to continue the decommissioning process up to the state of “green grass” (denoted as phase three) due to the potential use of the reactor biological shield as a dry storage for spent fuel from the MARIA reactor.

EWA reactor hall

Spent fuel storages facility

In accordance with the Atomic Law Act, spent nuclear fuel storage facilities are also considered as nuclear facilities.

Dedicated entity - the Radioactive Waste Management Plant is responsible for operation of the “wet” (water) spent nuclear fuel storages (facilities No 19 and 19A) since January 200

Storage No 19 was used to store encapsulated low enriched Uranium spent fuel (EK-10) from the first period of operation (years 1958-67) of the EWA reactor. This facility is also used as a place for storing solid radioactive waste components from the EWA reactor’s decommissioning process, from the MARIA reactor’s operation and also spent high activity gamma radiation sources.

The basic element of the storage facility is a concrete body with four cylindrical chambers, inserted in a square matrix. The chambers are fitted with stainless steel lining and each chamber is equipped with storage containers with separators for safe arrangement of spent nuclear fuel elements

Facility no. 19A was used for storage of spent nuclear fuel marked as WWR-SM and WWR-M2 from the operation of the EWA reactor in the years 1967–1995 as well as the spent encapsulated MR nuclear fuel from the MARIA reactor’s operation. The storage is currently empty, since all the spent nuclear fuel from storage no. 19A was shipped back to the Russian Federation in years 2009-2016, under the Global Threat Reduction Initiative.

National Radioactive Waste Repository 

According to the IAEA classification, the National Radioactive Waste Repository is a near-surface repository dedicated to a short-lived, low- and intermediate- activity (where half-life period of isotopes is less than 30 years) radioactive waste disposal and sealed radioactive sources. It is also used to store, for an interim period, long-lived, mainly alpha radioactive waste, ready to be placed in a deep repository. The Rozan repository is in operation since 1961 and is the only facility of this type in Poland.

Detailed information on the requirements for the Repository is defined in the Decree of the Council of Ministers of 14 December 2015 on radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel (item 2267).

Detailed information on the amount of radioactive waste stored in the Repository site is presented in the annual report of the President of PAA.

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