IAEA praises Italy's decommissioning efforts

14 July 2017

Italy is committed to the safe and effective decommissioning of nuclear sites and management of associated radioactive waste, an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) mission has concluded. However, it noted areas for potential improvement.

Italy operated a total of four nuclear power plants starting in the early 1960s but decided to phase out nuclear power in a referendum that followed the 1986 Chernobyl accident. It closed its last two operating plants, Caorso and Trino Vercellese, in 1990. Plans for waste management include the development of a national repository for the disposal of low- and intermediate-level waste and interim storage of high-level waste. State-owned Societa Gestione Impianti Nucleari SpA (Sogin) was established in 1999 to take responsibility for decommissioning Italy's former nuclear power sites and locating a national waste store.

At the request of the Italian government, the IAEA has conducted its first integrated review service for radioactive waste and used fuel management, decommissioning and remediation programs, referred to as Artemis. Artemis missions provide independent expert opinion and advice, drawn from an international team of specialists convened by the IAEA. Reviews are based on the IAEA safety standards and technical guidance, as well as international good practices.

An Artemis team concluded a 12-day mission today to review Italy's program for decommissioning its nuclear facilities and managing its radioactive waste. The team comprised six experts from France, Germany, Russia, the UK and the USA, as well as two IAEA staff members. They held discussions with Sogin officials at the company's headquarters in Rome and visited the Latina, Caorso, Garigliano and Trino nuclear power plants. The also visited fuel cycle facilities at Trisaia, Saluggia and Casaccia.

A number of good practices were identified by the team, including a transparent, well-defined process for developing decommissioning budgets. It also noted Sogin effectively uses proven technologies, as well as novel approaches to tackling challenging scenarios. It said the company takes a proactive approach to knowledge management and to developing skills and competencies.

However, it made several recommendations and suggestions aimed at improving efficiency and reliability in decommissioning. It said all Italian stakeholders should assign high priority to the national repository's siting and completion by 2025 as planned. It said Sogin should further enhance its planning and risk-management processes related to "uncertainties of such complex decommissioning projects". The team also called on Sogin to develop innovative solutions that address the technical challenges.

Mission team leader Michel Pieraccini, international development director at France's EDF Ciden, said: "Italy is going through a challenging period in implementing its nuclear decommissioning strategy. Our recommendations highlight Sogin's strengths as well as the value of sharing international best practices."

The team will deliver its final mission report to Sogin in about two months.

Sogin president Marco Ricotti said, "This was the IAEA's first peer review of a decommissioning program on a national scale. The Artemis team members, comprising top-level international experts from a variety of technical backgrounds, provided us with new perspectives on our activities. At the same time, it helped us recognise that our experiences on decommissioning and waste management can be of assistance to other countries facing similar challenges."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News