Nuclear complex at Krasnoyarsk (KMCIC)

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Krasnoyarsk Mining and Chemical Complex (KMCIC) is located about 60 km northeast of Krasnoyarsk on the east bank of the Yenisei River which empties into the Kara Sea. The city of Krasnoyarsk is now called Zheleznogorsk. The complex started operations in 1958 and is the last facility producing weapons grade plutonium that was built in the former Soviet Union. The entire complex was built underground to protect it against possible attack. Two reactors for plutonium production were cooled by water directly from the Yenisei River. This caused substantial radioactive contamination downstream from the complex. The site originally contained three nuclear reactors, a radiochemical plant for separating weapons grade plutonium and uranium, and facilities for storing nuclear waste. Only one of the reactors is now in operation along with a chemical plant used to recover spent fuel from the reactor. The reactor has a closed-loop cooling system which discharges substantially less radioactive pollution into the Yenisei River.

Impact assessment of waste treatment/storage at the Krasnoyarsk complex
An assessment of pollution levels has been carried out at the Krasnoyarsk complex. This involved modelling and impact assessments and included an assessment of suitable river models, calculations of radiation doses for population groups in the northern areas and assessments of consequences of current practice and of possible accidents. A main aim of the project has been to generate information on the transfer of radioactivity along the Yenisei’s river system and consequences for humans (Arctic population). The final report is being drawn up, giving information on current and historical levels of radioactive pollution, a description of operations at the complex and quantity of radioactivity that has accumulated over the years in the environment and in subterranean storage facilities. The report also contains impact assessments of various accident scenarios along with an assessment of radiation doses to the Arctic population.

Radioactive pollution in the area
Radioactive contamination of the Yenisei River diminishes with increasing distance from the discharge site and fell markedly after 1992 when reactor operations involving direct discharges were halted. The complex is located about 2000 km from the Kara Sea where radiation is now mainly associated with fallout from nuclear testing in the 1950s and 1960s. The use of deep reprocessing waste injection wells close to the complex has reduced local contamination in the area. 

The first two reactors used water from the Yenisei River to cool the reactor core and discharged the coolant directly back to the river. This led to radioactive contamination of the river, sentiments, flora and fauna. A quantity of low and medium active liquid waste was stored in basins, treated and released into the river. Most of the liquid waste was injected into deep subterranean wells after separation of plutonium and uranium. The wells are located about 12 km northeast of Krasnoyarsk-26 at Severny. The wells reduced pollution of the environment around Krasnoyarsk-26, but two 15 km long pipes transporting liquid radioactive waste to Severny have leaked on previous occasions, causing local radioactive contamination. 

One of the reactors at the complex is still in use today, albeit only for production of electricity and heat. The reactor has a closed-loop cooling system which does not entail any substantial increase in radioactive contamination of the Yenisei River. Radioactive discharges to the Yenisei fell by a factor of ~15 after the first two reactors were halted in 1992.  

It was decided to build a recovery plant (RT-2) in 1974. So far only the storage facility for spent fuel has been built, and was put into service in 1985. It remains in operation today. Construction of the recovery plant was halted in 1990 due to local opposition and lack of funding, and remains 30-40% complete.