First Spent Nuclear Fuel from Chernobyl is Safely Stored after 34 Years

The encapsulation of spent nuclear fuel from Chernobyl reactors marks a massive milestone.
Trevor English

A milestone in nuclear safety has been marked at Chernobyl by the European Bank for reconstruction and development.

34 years ago the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl occurred, marring the region and the world with radioactivity ever since. Now, in 2020, the first waste canister that contains radioactive spent nuclear fuel from the deteriorating nuclear plant has finally been stored off-site. 

Recently crews funded by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) successfully removed spent fuel rods from on-site storage containers that had long outlived their original design life. In their new homes, the spent nuclear fuel will be safely stored for roughly 100 years.

The recovery efforts

Since the last functioning reactor at Chernobyl was shut down in the year 2000, recovery efforts have heated up at the defunct and damaged nuclear power plant. The milestone of safely storing nuclear fuel from the site represents the pinnacle of roughly 20-years of work by crews. 

As for the storage of the spent fuel, that is taking place at ISF-2, the largest nuclear dry-storage facility in the world. The facility was constructed by Holtec, a US company, with funding through the Nuclear Safety Account, an international fund managed by the EBRD.


This site contains various storage locations for canisters that contain spent nuclear fuel assemblies. Roughly 93 spent fuel assemblies were removed from Chernobyl and placed in a double-walled canister, then transported to the world-class ISF-2 facility. Over the next eight years, roughly 21,000 fuel assemblies will be moved from Chernobyl reactors 1, 2, and 3 and stored there for at least a century.

Transporting the spent fuel

The fuel that is now being removed was previously stored in a wet pond facility at Chernobyl. Following the destruction of reactor 4 in 1986, the remaining fuel from the functioning reactors was slowly stored at this site, which has now deteriorated. 

As for the transportation of the fuel from Chernobyl to the ISF-2 facility, a purpose-built rail was constructed to carry the fuel containers.

Funding for the ISF-2 transfer project comes from over a dozen countries, including, but not limited to, the EU, Germany, Russia, the UK, and the US. 

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