IAEA reviews Italy's management of radioactive waste

19 October 2023

Italy is committed to addressing the challenges of safely managing its radioactive waste, an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts has concluded. The review identified areas for additional efforts.

(Image: greghristov / Pixabay)

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. The country also manages radioactive waste from the operation of five research reactors, research laboratories and experimental facilities and from activities in medicine, industry and other uses. The waste is currently stored at temporary storage sites near decommissioned nuclear power reactors and other nuclear facilities.

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. The search for a suitable site is underway.

The IAEA sent an Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning and Remediation (Artemis) mission to Italy at the request of the government. Artemis missions provide independent expert opinion and advice, drawn from an international team of specialists convened by the IAEA. Reviews are based on IAEA safety standards and technical guidance, as well as international good practices. An Artemis review team - comprising six experts from Canada, the USA, the UK, Slovenia, Lithuania and France, plus three IAEA staff members - concluded the ten-day mission to Italy on 10 October.

The Artemis review team concluded that Italy is aware of the challenges of safely managing the country's radioactive waste and is committed to addressing them.

The team identified areas for improvements, including: a formal approval for the national radioactive waste management programme; the development of a research, development and demonstration programme clearly linked to supporting implementation of the national programme; and the consideration of international experience in resource planning.

"Italy has thoroughly prepared for the Artemis review mission, proactively shared pertinent information and engaged in constructive discussions," said Artemis team leader Paul McClelland, director of waste management and technical support at Atomic Energy of Canada Limited. "I am confident that the mission will support Italy in managing nuclear and radiological waste."

"The Artemis peer review has been an excellent forum for the exchange of experiences and lessons learned in an open and transparent manner," said Mariano Cordone, director of the nuclear division at Italy's Ministry of the Environment and Energy Security (MASE), which hosted the mission. "We are grateful that the review team recognised our efforts so far to establish a well-managed spent fuel and radioactive waste system. We are fully committed to addressing the recommendations and suggestions that have been highlighted, which will make an important contribution to strengthening our capabilities and valuable guidelines for further improvements."

The final report from the review will be provided to MASE in two months.

The IAEA conducted its first Artemis mission, to Italy, in 2017.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News