Contract for Italian waste cementation plant

05 July 2023

Italy's Societa Gestione Impianti Nucleari SpA (Sogin) has awarded a contract worth EUR43 million (USD47 million) for the construction of the Finished Product Cementation Plant (ICPF) at the Itrec facility on the Rotondella site in the province of Matera, in the Southern Italian region of Basilicata.

Civil works for the temporary storage facility annexed to the ICPF was completed in December last year (Image: Sogin)

The contract was awarded on 20 June to a consortium comprising Ansaldo Nucleare and construction firm Monsud SpA following the launch of a tender on 30 December last year.

The ICPF facility is intended for the cementation of approximately 3 cubic metres of liquid uranium-thorium solution, referred to as 'final product', resulting from the experimental reprocessing operations performed on fuel during the Rotondella plant's operation.

Between 1968 and 1970, 84 elements of irradiated fuel from the uranium-thorium cycle from the Elk River experimental reactor in Minnesota, USA, were shipped to the Rotondella plant.

Between 1975 and 1978, a nuclear testing campaign was conducted on 20 of these elements, which produced three different radioactive liquid outcomes; one of these was the so-called final product, consisting of recovered fuel and fission elements in a nitric-based solution.

Currently, the liquid radioactive waste present at the site is safely stored in a steel tank contained, in turn, in a very thick reinforced concrete structure.

The ICPF project involves the construction of two structures. The process building, where cementing activities will be carried out of approximately 3 cubic metres of finished product, and the annexed temporary storage facility which is already completed and where the systems are currently being installed. In the storage building, the approximately 170 items resulting from the cementation process will be safely stored. In addition, casks containing the 64 fuel elements currently stored in the storage pool of the plant, awaiting their transfer to the national repository, will also be stored in the facility.

In 2004, the preliminary activities for the implementation of the plant - the design and qualification of the cementitious matrix for final products - were initiated. Between 2007 and 2010, the mock-up prototype of the cementation cell was created; this cell is used for qualifying the product, testing components and cementation process and training future personnel. Between 2014 and 2017, the excavation works and the construction of a barrier to support the surrounding soil were implemented, along with the foundations of the interim storage facility and some partial elevation works. However, in 2017 Sogin terminated the agreement with the winning contractor due to default.

"The entry into operation of the plant will raise the safety levels and allow for a significant increase of the decommissioning activities of the site," Sogin said. "In 2023, decommissioning operations will grow overall by more than 4%, with an overall progress of 35%."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News