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BN-350 Reactor Decommissioning Concept


Preparation of a Decommissioning Plan for International Review to Place the BN-350 Reactor in a SAFESTOR Condition

Tech Area / Field

  • FIR-DEC/Decommissioning/Fission Reactors

8 Project completed

Registration date

Completion date

Senior Project Manager
Tocheny L V

Leading Institute
Nuclear Technology Safety Center, Kazakstan, Almaty

Supporting institutes

  • National Nuclear Center of the Republic of Kazakstan, Kazakstan, Kurchatov\nNational JSC of Atomic Power Engineering and Industry "KATEP", Kazakstan, Almaty\nMangyshlak Atomic Energy Complex, Kazakstan, Aktau

Project summary


Kazakhstan operates one nuclear power reactor at its plant in Aktau. The Soviet-designed BN-350 is a sodium-cooled, fast-breeder reactor that began operating in 1972. It was a key source of electricity and heat for Aktau, a city on the banks of the Caspian Sea in sparsely populated western Kazakhstan. The reactor also bred high purity weapons grade plutonium in its blanket --- whose elements were subsequently stored in the plant’s spent fuel pool. The disposition of these spent fuel elements is the subject of a separate bi-lateral project between the U.S. and Kazakhstan.

The intention was formally announced on April 22, 1999, to shutdown the reactor and take those actions necessary to place the plant in safe storage (‘SAFESTOR’) for 50 years, at which time final decontamination and decommissioning (D&D) will be performed. U.S. collaboration in planning and conducting the shutdown was requested since we do not have the indigenous resources to do the work. The point of this request is that we (Kazakhstan) need financial assistance and input from others who have experience with decommissioning sodium cooled fast reactors. Consequently, international collaborative efforts are required with other nations to successfully complete the decommissioning activities to place the plant in SAFESTOR and keep the existing resources at the plant productively employed. The experience the BN-350 operating staff will gain in the decommissioning of the plant will provide an experience base from which we can build our own nuclear safety infrastructure in conducting decommissioning activities safely and effectively and also provide an experienced staff to do this work else where in the international marketplace. The market over the next 100 years for nuclear decommissioning activities is expected to be very large.

Initial actions taken collaboratively with the U.S. for the decommissioning planning include the following:

1) preparing General Special Technical requirements to govern the high level requirements and organization of the BN-350 shutdown project, (for example, establishing the stages of the project and high level goals such as reactor defueling and sodium draining and deactivation)

2) preparing detailed technical requirements for the BN-350 shutdown project, (for example, detailed ‘end point’ objectives for what each system, facility, and component will look like prior to entering SAFESTOR), and

3) assessing the current status of the BN-350 plant against those detailed requirements in item 2 to derive a baseline set of actions to place the plant in SAFESTOR. (for example, evaluating the final configuration of the heating and ventilating system against the goals for the system in safe storage to determine the specific actions which need to be taken for that system)

This collaborative work is currently on going. In parallel to this, the U.S. announced its intention to support Kazakhstan in the technical scope of actually conducting the shutdown work primarily focused on those tasks necessary to irreversibly shutdown the reactor – namely sodium draining and processing (fuel offloading is being taken care of by another U.S. sponsored project). This intention has been formalized in a bi-lateral agreement between the U.S. and Kazakhstan signed in December 1999. This is an expensive commitment for the U.S. Accordingly, key decision-makers in the U.S. have made a condition for the assistance that other nations provide assistance as well. In August of 1999, the IAEA held an international shutdown-planning workshop for the benefit of Kazakhstan. At the workshop, participating countries discussed their sodium cooled shutdown experience and Kazakhstan shared its plans.

We stated at the meeting that a plan would be ready in April ‘00. Participating countries stated that it would be necessary to review the plan in order for the technical personnel present to forward any recommendation to their government’s decision-makers for assistance to BN-350 in the shutdown. Subsequent to this meeting, U.S. decision-makers suggested that an IAEA coordinated international peer review of the BN-350 decommissioning plan be conducted to provide credibility to the plan. The U.S. decision makers also asserted that the quality of the decommissioning plan that Kazakhstan submits for international review must be ‘world class’ to provide this credibility. With this view, we agreed that the U.S. should collaborate with us in the preparation of this decommissioning plan for international review, and gain other international experts to assist in the plan’s preparation as well.

The current decommissioning plans being developed by us are directed towards our internal use and do not meet the format and content requirements typical of internationally accepted decommissioning plans. It is recognized that the BN-350 decommissioning plan being formulated internal to our country will have much of the required information. However, the format and content of shutdown plans reflecting IAEA guidance are very different and require the development of a resource loaded schedule baseline. International experience is required to assist us in the development of this baseline.

The Kazakhstan Nuclear Technology Safety Center is in a unique position to facilitate creation of these documents with the MAEC (BN-350) plant personnel, other involved Kazakhstan agencies such as ‘KATEP’ and NNC, and the Kazakhstan Atomic Energy Committee (KAEC) (KAEC is not included in this proposal – KAEC must maintain its independence of the project. The NTSC was expressly set up on Kazakhstan to be a center for nuclear expertise. They are also ideally set up to be a coordinating agency within Kazakhstan for all the activities in this proposal.


The technical objective of this joint U.S. – Kazakhstan collaborative work is to create a concise plan meeting international standards of excellence to place the BN-350 reactor plant in safe-storage condition. The quality and content of the plan should be such that it will be successfully reviewed and credited by an international peer panel of experts. The intent of the plan is to provide a clear picture of the tasks required to place the BN-350 in SAFESTOR so that other international donors can make confident decisions as to where they can contribute in a meaningful way to support the plant’s decommissioning. In this regard, technical concepts must be developed in parallel for near-term key tasks for placing the plant in safe storage --- tasks such as sodium draining and processing.


Personnel from many Kazakhstan agencies will conduct the joint work in collaboration with the U.S. and other international experts. These agencies include the Mangyshlak Atomic Energy Complex (MAEC) including personnel from the BN-350 reactor, the Kazakhstan Joint Stock Company ‘KATEP’, the Kazakhstan National Nuclear Center (NNC), the Kazakhstan Atomic Energy Committee (KAEC) (not included in this proposal as discussed above), and the Kazakhstan Nuclear Technology Safety Center (KNTSC). The Kazakhstan Nuclear Technology Safety Center, in addition, will provide contract administration internal to Kazakhstan. In this capacity the KNTSC will manage the contractual interface with the other Kazakhstan participating agencies accomplishing the work, including coordinating agreements on scopes of work, administrative review of deliverables provided by the other Kazakhstan agencies, and payment or providing required materials to other participating agencies. The KNTSC will also provide travel expenses and arrange for administrative and meeting expenses to support the project.


The strategy for development of the plan involves a series of tasks, the basic accomplishment of which is in a series of joint workshops, training sessions, and/or working meetings of all participants occurring either in the U.S. or Kazakhstan --- dependent on cost effectiveness and travel restrictions. In these workshops the technical experience of decommissioning sodium cooled reactors will be transferred to Kazakhstan engineers and scientists with the particular knowledge of the BN-350 reactor systems. In parallel with the workshops, detailed technical design concepts will be developed for near-term key activities such as sodium draining and processing. All this information will be combined in a technical decommissioning plan. The tasks are as follows:

Tasks 0 and 1 – Develop Initial Workshop Plans and Conduct Workshop to Develop the Format, Content, and Initial Data Requirements for the Plan

The key goals of this task are to develop the detailed format and content of the Shutdown Plan for International Review (henceforth called ‘the plan’), to develop preliminary data needs to write the plan, and to prepare the detailed plans for the writing of the plan. The format and content document should be in sufficient detail so that an appropriately assigned inpidual could develop the information for an assigned section of the plan to permit acceptable drafting of that section.

Task 2 – Develop the Information Base and Strategy for the Plan Development

The intent of this task to collect all the data that is needed to compete the plan. The available data identified in task 1 is collected and evaluated, and additional data needs are identified as necessary based on this assessment. A strategy for fulfilling the data needs is agreed upon. It is envisaged that this step will be performed in a second 1 to 2 week workshop. The predominant data need is expected to involve a) confirming the list of actions and tasks needed to place the plant in SAFESTOR, and b) gathering support information to document the logic, schedule, and resource requirements for those actions and tasks. Quantities of radioactive waste, doses, etc., and other task specific information may also be convenient to estimate with analysis of each of these actions so that it may be systematically tallied in the plan. Clear direction is given in the workshop on how the data is to be collected. Assignments are given at the end of the workshop for the collection of the data in conformance with the strategy and the workshop concluded. Personnel return to their home bases to collect the information as necessary. Information already collected at the workshop from available information is archived by appropriate section in the format and content documents that it supports. Detailed technical concepts developed in task 6 will begin to be fed into the planning process at this time.

Task 3 – Develop the Plan

This task includes 2 aspects:

1) Assembling all the data and information gathered in task 2, reviewing it, and creating a rough draft of the plan. This will be performed in a final (third) 1 – 2 week workshop. The most difficult part of this task is probably assembling the resource-loaded schedule.

2) Complete the final writing of the plan. A ‘writing team’ is agreed upon to take the rough draft and turn it into a final document ready for review.

The technical concepts being developed in task 6 will continue to be updated as more information is obtained.

Task 4 – Review, Revise, and Approve the Plan

This task takes the conformed draft plan and assures it is acceptable to the workshop participants, U.S. and Kazakhstan decision makers, and it is appropriately approved for international review.

Task 5 – Conduct International Peer Review of the Plan

In parallel with the performance of this contract, the joint Kazakhstan-U.S. decision-makers communicate with the IAEA to set up an international peer review of the BN-350 shutdown plan. Conceptually, the IAEA will administer the peer review by identifying and recruiting international experts to review the plan. These experts cannot be the ones who may have been involved in the creation of the plan. Revision B of the draft conformed plan is sent to these reviewers approximately 1 month prior to a review meeting. The review meeting is conceptually sponsored by the IAEA and conducted in Vienna.

Task 6 – Concept development of Near-Term Tasks Necessary for Detailed Planning

This task develops the detailed design concepts for near-term tasks where there is a substantial amount of development work required in order to figure out what to do --- specifically sodium draining and processing. Unless this is done, the planning work that will be performed will be based on conjecture on areas that will take place in the near term --- potentially invalidating the plans for the follow-on work. The team required for the general planning work is comprised of engineers and scientists with a broad plant knowledge. Developing the detailed concepts requires the addition of specialists to develop the specific design concepts.

Specific detailed concepts need to be worked out for the following:

· Sodium draining

· review for trapped residual sodium areas

· develop strategy for draining trapped sodium

· determine need for aux heating

· development of sodium draining process)

· Sodium Processing

· Determine location of processing facility and connection to plant

· development of sodium processing concept

· review of environmental acceptability of processing product

· development of licensing requirements for the facility)

Task 7 – Contract Adminisatration

This task involves work by the Kazakhstan Nuclear Technology Safety Center to manage the designated work with the other agencies within Kazakhstan and Russia in support of this project. KNTSC responsibilities include general coordination of all project activities, administrative review of deliverables (to assure completeness prior to payment), translation of the deliverables as necessary, arrangement for and implementation of payment and material procurements/transfers to appropriate personnel at the other agencies, confirmation of payment/material receipt, administrative and logistic support for project workshops, and maintenance of financial records, wages paid, and other payment documentation.


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