Next phase of Italian nuclear waste shipments to Slovakia begins

30 January 2020

The first of 33 scheduled transports aimed at moving about 5600 drums of radioactive resins and sludge departed from Italy's shut down Caorso nuclear power plant on 28 January en route to the Bohunice plant in Slovakia for their treatment and conditioning. All the drums in this second phase of shipments are expected to be transported by 2022.

Societa Gestione Impianti Nucleari SpA (Sogin), the state-owned company responsible for dismantling Italy's nuclear power plants, said the shipment marks the launch of the second and final phase of the transport programme. Arranged in four containers, the first 162 drums were shipped on two trucks.

In November 2017, the first resin tanks were sent to Bohunice to carry out cold tests of the pre-treatment system and the incinerator’s power supply. The first phase of the actual transport programme involved the shipment in June 2018 of 336 drums to perform the hot testing of the Slovakian plant, with the production of the first final products. Following the successful tests, the operational plan was approved and the shipment and treatment of the remaining waste was authorised.

At the Bohunice plant, ion exchange resins and sludges - radioactive waste produced during the operation of the Caorso plant - will undergo incineration and conditioning. This will reduce its volume by 90%, from 1290 cubic metres down to 130 cubic metres. At the end of the process, the final products will be returned to Caorso for on-site interim storage before their eventually transfer to a national repository.

Sogin said the transfer of the waste - which represents about 70% of the volume of waste currently stored at the Caorso plant - will enable the three on-site interim storage buildings to be emptied and upgraded to current safety standards, without the need to build new temporary storage facilities. It added, the emptying of the three buildings - the Low-Activity Solid Waste Building 1 and 2 and the Medium-Activity Solid Waste Building - will allow decommissioning of Caorso to be resumed at an accelerated rate, with the guarantee of the highest safety standards.

The total value of the activities to transfer the drums, treat the resins and sludge, and to return the conditioned waste is put at EUR37 million (USD41 million).

Caorso, a 860 MWe boiling water reactor (BWR), was closed in 1990 as a result of the Italian referendum on nuclear power that followed the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. It had operated for only 12 years. In May 2007, Sogin signed a contract with France's Areva for the transport, reprocessing and packaging of 235 tonnes of used fuel from shut down Italian nuclear power plants, including 190 tonnes of fuel from the Caorso plant. The first two special containers, with 34 of the 1243 fuel rods that were to be reprocessed at La Hague, left Caorso in December of that year.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News