El Cabril: Repository for Very Low-Level, Low-Level and Intermediate-level Radioactive Waste

El Cabril is a repository of very low-level, low-level and intermediate-level radioactive waste generated in Spain as a result of the NPPs operation, use of radiation sources by medical institutions and during conducting activities at the repository, including contaminated personal protective equipment. The organization operating the repository is the National Company for Nuclear Waste Management and Decommissioning of Nuclear Power Plants (Enresa).

The El Cabril repository is located on the territory of the former Spanish uranium mines. In this way, the previous tailings, intended for uranium mining, were cleaned and a new nuclear facility for the disposal of radioactive waste (RAW) was constructed.

The territory of El Cabril is divided into two zones: the zone where the office buildings are located, and the zone intended for the disposal of radioactive waste of different classes. The repository contains 28 cells for low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste and 2 cells for very low-level radioactive waste. RAW of different classes are placed at different sites, as they have different disposal technologies.

Very low-level radioactive waste usually consists of solid materials, normally it is scrap metal and rubble, containing radioactive isotopes, most of which result from the dismantling of nuclear power plants, and personal protective equipment. Very low-level radioactive waste arrives at the repository in large bags, drums, or containers and is immediately placed in a cell for disposal.

Low-level and medium-level radioactive wastes arrive in El Cabril by specialized transport and are unloaded in the conditioning area or at one of the temporary storage sites. After that, Enresa specialists carry out sampling and measure its general background, take samples to check the conformity of the available radioactive substances with those declared in the documentation.

In addition, the Enresa company took a decision to produce most of the components for the RAW disposal at its own site. They have developed a technology by which they produce reinforced concrete, then test it and, if it does not meet the required characteristics, destroy it and create a new one. Thus, they have a very low rejection rate: per 1000 concrete containers only 60 ones are rejected, which ensures high quality and safety indicators.

El Cabril is considered a ground disposal facility since it is designed for 300 years. Currently, the repository is being filled, and in the future Enresa plans to construct another platform to store low-level and intermediate-level radioactive waste. Once the storage facility is completely filled, Enresa will restore the natural landscape by planting trees on top of the storage facility. Moreover, Enresa specialists, like the whole world, are working on the development of signs that will indicate to future generations that this area contains hazardous waste.

Photo report of Tetyana Verbytska, press secretary of the State Scientific and Technical Center for Nuclear and Radiation Safety.