El Cabril Disposal Facility

El Cabril is the Spanish disposal facility for very low, low and intermediate level radioactive waste. It is located within the municipal area of Hornachuelos (Córdoba).

History of El Cabril

  • 1984

    Creation of Enresa by parliamentary mandate.

    Royal Decree 1522/1984 of 4 July.

  • 1985

    Creation of Enresa by parliamentary mandate.

    13 December 1985, transfer of ownership of the facility from the Spanish Nuclear Energy Board to Enresa.

  • 1986

    1 January: Enresa takes charge of the facilities at El Cabril.

    8 April: the Ministry of Industry and Energy authorises Enresa to take charge of the operation of the facilities.

  • 1988

    Application for the construction permit and authorisation for commissioning of the new facilities (known as the El Cabril expansion), including the environmental impact analysis.

  • 1989

    19 November 1989: the case for public utility and social interest with regard to the extension work on El Cabril is approved by the Córdoba Provincial Town Planning Commission.


    1989

    • 19 November 1989: the case for public utility and social interest with regard to the extension work on El Cabril is approved by the Córdoba Provincial Town Planning Commission.
    • Favourable report issued by the Nuclear Safety Council.
    • Environmental Impact Statement issued by the Directorate General for the Environment.
    • The Ministry of Industry authorises the construction of the new disposal facility for low and intermediate level waste at El Cabril.
  • 1990

    Construction work of the extension of the disposal.

  • 1992

    9 October: the Ministry authorises Enresa’s operation of the new facility for a period of 4 years.

  • 1993

    23 April: the first cask is deposited in one of the north platform disposal vaults.

  • 1994

    The first disposal vault on the north platform is sealed and the filling of the second vault begins.

  • 2001

    Enresa presents the options for a proposed supplementary facility for very low level waste (VLLW) at El Cabril to the Directorate General for Energy Policy and Mines and the Nuclear Safety Council.

  • 2006

    The Directorate General for Energy Policy and Mines authorises Enresa to construct the dedicated disposal structures for very low level waste (VLLW).

  • 2007

    Construction is completed on the first disposal structure for very low level waste (VLLW), Vault 29.

  • 2008

    The Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Trade authorises Enresa to begin operation of the supplementary facility, subsequent to approval from the Nuclear Safety Council.

    October 2008: start of waste disposal in Vault 29.

  • 2013

    Enresa submits an application for approval for the construction and assembly of the second disposal structure for very low level waste (VLLW).

  • 2014

    The Nuclear Safety Council approves the application.

    Work begins on the construction of the second structure for VLLW, Vault 30.*


    2014

    * (Although the supplementary facility for very low level waste was authorised in the 21 July 2008 Resolution of the Directorate General for Energy Policy and Mines, Point 6.4 of its terms and conditions states that the construction of each new vault must be approved by the Nuclear Safety Council).

  • 2015

    Completed the civil construction of the first level of the disposal of the second disposal structure for very low level waste (VLLW), Vault 30.

  • 2016

    The assembly of the essential peripheral systems for the operation of the Vault 30 is ended.

 
 

What's stored in El Cabril?

This centre has been designed as a permanent solution for the storage of:

Low and intermediate level waste (LILW)

Most of the radioactive waste produced in Spain is low and intermediate level waste. It is produced by hospitals, research centres, industries and nuclear power plants.

El Cabril is considered by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission as one of world’s best radioactive waste disposal facilities, serving as a model for similar centres in other countries.

Very low level waste (VLLW)

Low and intermediate level waste includes very low level radioactive waste. Its low radioactive content, entails less stringent requirements for its management. Very low level waste comprises solid materials, usually scrap metal and rubble, which contains radioactive isotopes. Most of it comes from the dismantling of nuclear power plants (the most significant source).


Facilities

It is divided into two defined areas: the buildings area and the disposal area.

This separation enables the efficient performance of activities, facilitating their monitoring and control, and distinguishing the areas with regard to radiation regulations.

Capture of the buildings area

Building area

It includes the conditioning buildings, where waste treatment activities take place, and the control room, where operations, monitoring and supervision are carried out. It is also equipped with laboratories for verifying the condition of the waste.

The auxiliary services zone can be found here.

Capture of the low and intermediate level waste disposal area

Low and intermediate level waste disposal area

It consists of two platforms - the north platform, with 16 disposal structures, and the south platform, with 12.

Capture of the very low level disposal area

Very low level waste disposal area

It consists of one platform where four structures will be built, as disposal requirements dictate. Two structures have been constructed up to now.

LILW management

The disposal system is based primarily on the interposition of engineered barriers and natural barriers that safely confine the deposited materials, ensuring the protection of people and the environment.

There are three types of barriers interposed between the environment and the waste:

  • The first barrier, consisting of the conditioned waste and the cask.
  • The second barrier, made up of the engineered structures that house the waste.
  • The third and final barrier, formed by the natural terrain in which the facility is sited and the covering layers placed over the structures once they are full to capacity.

Low and intermediate level waste arrives at El Cabril in specialised transports and it is unloaded in the conditioning area or in one of the interim storage areas.

Most of the waste, which is produced by nuclear power plants, arrives already conditioned in drums. Waste from hospitals, research centres or industry is treated and placed in the installations at El Cabril.

The packages received are left in concrete casks. When a cask is at full capacity, it is immobilised by means of injected mortar, forming a compact block. This block is deposited in the disposal vault.

Once the disposal vault is full, it is sealed with a slab made of reinforced concrete and waterproofed.

Once all the structures in a platform are full, it will be sealed with a final cover made up of various drainage and waterproofing layers and topped with a final layer of topsoil to enable integration into the environment. The site’s monitoring and surveillance phase begins at this time. It lasts approximately 300 years.

Management of VLLW

Very low level waste arrives at the facility in large sacks, drums or casks and it is directly deposited in the specific disposal structure. If treatment is required, it is sent to the corresponding area.

When the structures are full of capacity, they are covered with various layers and topped with a final layer of topsoil to enable integration into the environment. The site’s monitoring and surveillance phase begins at this time. It lasts approximately 60 years.

Treatment, Conditioning and Disposal of Radioactive Waste

Since it is produced until its disposal, radioactive waste is subject to a conditioning process that depends mainly on its physicochemical and radiological characteristics.

Liquid Waste

Liquid waste is segregated according to its aqueous or organic nature. Subsequently, it is treated using physical and chemical methods in order to reduce both contamination and volume.

Physical methods include filtration, centrifugation and evaporation. The most common chemical methods are precipitation and ion exchange.

Finally, it must be solidified, since this is the safest state for transport and disposal. This involves mixing it evenly with concrete, mortar or cement.

Solid Waste

Solid waste is segregated according to its level of contamination and its physicochemical properties. The main objective is to reduce the volume requiring treatment. To this end, decontamination, shredding, crushing and compacting techniques are used.

It is subsequently immobilised creating a block made of cement.

Organic waste is incinerated to solidify it, and then mortar is used to create blocks from the ashes.

Disposal

At the end of December 2018, 21 of the 28 disposal structures for low and intermediate level waste were full, with 33,602 m 3 stored, which represents an occupation of the 77.2 %.

Regarding the complementary installation for very low activity waste, at the end of December 2018, 15,491 m 3 of radioactive waste had been stored.

Capture of the storage vaults

Transport of LILW

Enresa has over 25 years of experience in the transport of low and intermediate level waste. Over 4,000 transport operations have been carried out, covering more than 3,000,000 km, with no incidents resulting in radiological consequences.

Enresa monitored all waste removal operations. The company reports the Nuclear Safety Council, the relevant ministries, and the Civil Guard about all data related to transport operations.

Enresa is responsible for collecting, inspecting and transporting radioactive waste. This means that the transfer of ownership of materials takes place at the facility where the waste is produced. Because of this, all waste is fully inspected, both physically and radiologically, at the place of collection in order to verify that it corresponds to the technical specifications Enresa requires.

The transport of radioactive waste in Spain is undertaken in accordance with the European Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road. It includes all the recommendations of the International Atomic Energy Agency of the United Nations for the transport of radioactive materials.

Image of a truck

Routes are established by the corresponding Royal Decrees, which determine the Network of Routes for Dangerous Goods.

Institutional Monitoring

Enresa sends regular official reports and documents to various authorities, which set out and rigorously specify its activities.

Numerous checkpoints are established every year and approximately one thousand samples are collected in order to certify that the facility has no radiological impact.

A monthly report detailing the activities carried out at El Cabril facility is submitted to the Nuclear Safety Council and the Directorate General for Energy Policy and Mines, which reports to the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism.

Enresa also organises internal and external audits to verify the compliance of the management systems in use at El Cabril. The main external audit is performed by the Nuclear Safety Council, the competent authority in matters of nuclear safety and radiological protection.

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