Commercial utilisation of nuclear power in Italy started in 1963 and by 1981 four nuclear power plants, namely the NPPs of Garigliano (BWR), Latina (MAGNOX), Trino (PWR) and Caorso (BWR), and a LEU fuel fabrication installation (Bosco Marengo S.p.A.) had been commissioned. During that period the Nuclear Energy Research Agency (CNEN) – now the Agency for New Technologies, Energy and the Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA) - developed an extensive R&D programme on the nuclear fuel cycle with the operation of experimental fuel cycle installations (e.g. ITREC and EUREX).
The three NPPs of Latina, Trino and Caorso continued to be operated until 1987, when they were definitely shut down based on a governmental decision which interpreted the results of a national referendum, called upon after the Chernobyl accident, as the will to abandon the nuclear option. The NPP of Garigliano had been already shut down in 1978, for technical reasons.
At the same time the nuclear programme was cancelled, the Interministerial Committee for the Economical Planning (CIPE) required the National Electricity Company (ENEL S.p.A.) to start the decommissioning of the NPPs and a “Safe storage” (IAEA level 1/2) option was initially adopted.
In 1999, all ENEL S.p.A. liabilities and assets connected to nuclear power were assigned to a newly established company, named Sogin (Società Gestione Impianti Nucleari) S.p.A., whose shareholder is the Ministry of Economy and Finance, while the Ministry of Economic Development gives the strategic and operational objectives. The primary mission of the Sogin S.p.A., as detailed in the Ministerial Decrees of May 7th, 2001 and of December 2nd, 2004, and as a consequence of the change of the national decommissioning policy to the DECON strategy (IAEA level 3), is to cover the complete decommissioning of all Italian nuclear installations by 2024 and the safe management of the spent fuel and radioactive waste.
The spent fuel and the largest part of the radioactive waste to be managed in Italy derive from the operation of the above mentioned NPPs and fuel cycle facilities. As far as spent fuel is concerned, part of that has already been transferred abroad for reprocessing and the spent fuel still present in Italy is currently being sent in France for reprocessing. It is also envisaged that the conditioned waste resulting from the reprocessing will be returned to Italy.
Italy ratified the Joint Convention on the Safety of the spent fuel management and on the safety of the radioactive waste management” on February 2006.
In 2009 the Italian Government, with the aim to restart a new nuclear programme, promulgated a new Law (Law 99/2009) establishing the necessary legislative provisions, including the institution of the ASN (Agency for the Nuclear Safety). Other Legislative Decrees have been issued or were in preparation, but, after the Fukushima accident, a public debate brought to a another popular referendum on June 2011 that sanctioned again the abandon of the nuclear programme in Italy.
The key regulatory functions (licensing, assessment, inspection and enforcement) related to nuclear safety and radiation protection matters, including also the safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste and decommissioning of nuclear facilities, are exploited in Italy by the following main bodies:
- The Ministry of Economic Development, as the authority which grants the licence/authorization for nuclear activities (from the design and construction to the decommissioning and waste disposal) and for major practices involving the use of ionising radiations. Authorizations are granted on the basis of the technical advise and specifications formulated by the Regulatory Authority (ISPRA – Institute for the Environmental Protection and Research).
- ISPRA – Department of Nuclear, Industrial and Tecnological Risk, entrusted with the role of Regulatory Authority, is responsible for the assessment and the inspection on nuclear installations and on activities involving the use of radiation sources.
It should be noticed that, as provided by art. 29 in the Law n° 99/2009, a new Nuclear Safety Agency with the role of Regulatory Body has been established.
On December 2011 the Law n° 214/2011 abolished the new Nuclear Safety Agency (created with the Law 99/2009, but not yet applied) and the functions have been temporary assigned to ISPRA (that in fact continue its work as nuclear authority) waiting for a definitive asset of the organization.
National Implementing Organisations
The organization in Italy in charge of the decommissioning of both NPP’s and R&D ENEA nuclear fuel cycle facilities is SOGIN. SOGIN is a shareholder company, totally owned by the Government through the Ministry of Economy and Finance. It is an engineering and site operation company and it is also the nuclear license holder, being therefore responsible of the licensing processes.
The overall program is to complete the decommissioning projects by 2024, provided that external conditions will be met, in particular the availability of a national waste repository.
The large part of the radioactive waste existing in Italy has been produced in the past during the operation of the nuclear installations connected to the national nuclear power programme, definitely shut down in 1987 and currently under decommissioning.
At present, almost all the waste generated by the operation of nuclear installations is stored at the sites of origin and the waste produced by R&D, medical and industrial applications is stored in some facilities specifically devoted to the scope.
As far as spent fuel management is concerned, since the beginning of its nuclear programme, Italy had pursued the option of reprocessing abroad the spent fuel produced in its NPPs. After the political decision to stop all nuclear power activities, the shipments abroad of spent fuel for reprocessing were suspended with the last shipment to UK occurred in 2005, in the frame of a service agreement already in place.
In November 2006 an Agreement between the Italian and the French Governments regulating the transfer to France of the spent fuel present in Italy (about 235 t) was signed. On this basis, in April 2007, Sogin signed a contract with AREVA. In June 2010, the shipment of spent fuel from Caorso NPP to France was completed and transfer of the spent fuel stored in the Avogadro AFR storage pool and in the Trino NPP is expected to be completed by 2013.
At present the only fuel that will not be reprocessed is the Uranium/Thorium spent fuel, which is stored at the ITREC experimental reprocessing facility. For this fuel the transfer into dual purpose dry cask storage is planned.
In connection with the national repository the Legislative Decree 31/2010, establishes the new procedure for the localization and the construction of a national repository for the LLW disposal and the ILW-HLW long term storage, and assigns to Sogin the role of the Implementer responsible for the construction and operation of the national repository.
Legislative Decree n° 31/2010 also assigns to Sogin the responsibility to propose areas suitable for the identification of the site. After a preliminary selection of some suitable area, a period for a public consultation is foreseen. Once the potential sites are approved by the Nuclear Safety Agency, Sogin invites the involved Regions to present its interest within 60 days. In the case of lack of interest, an inter-institutional Committee will be created, with the participation of representatives from different Ministries and Regions, and with task to reach an agreement with one of the interested Regions. However, the whole implementation process is not yet started.
Waiting for the availability of the national storage site, the radioactive waste will continue to be stored in the nuclear installations of origin. Interventions are in progress to enhance the safety level of waste by implementing specific treatment and conditioning projects and by refurbishing existing buildings or by constructing new interim storage facilities on the sites. New facilities will also be used to ensure temporary storage capacity for waste resulting from decommissioning preliminary activities.
Preliminary dismantling activities as well as the conditioning of the radioactive waste are on going at the shutdown SOGIN nuclear power plants and fuel cycle facilities.
The Garigliano 150 net MWe BWR was operated from 1963 to 1978. The plant has been totally defuelled and several activities have been performed such as a light decontamination and drainage of the vessel, primary circuit and spent fuel pit; dry low-level operational wastes compaction, cementation of liquid and semiliquid (sludge) radioactive waste.
The Latina 153 net MWe GCR was operated since 1962 up to 1987. The plant has been totally defuelled; the primary circuit has been filled with dry air, and blowers and portions of the primary circuit outside the reactor building have been dismantled.
The Trino 260 net MWe PWR was operated from 1965 to 1987 for the equivalent of about eleven full power years; a limited quantity of spent fuel is still present in the spent fuel pool; no major decommissioning activities have been performed. Decontamination of the primary circuit is in progress.
The Caorso 860 net MWe BWR was operated from 1981 to 1986. Decontamination of the circulation loops and clean-up have been completed in 2003. Dismantling activities on the turbine building, RHR tower and off-gas system are in progress.
As far as the fuel cycle facilities are concerned, all of them are at present shut down and managing their nuclear materials and/or radioactive waste, before starting decontamination and dismantling operations.
Bosco Marengo (former Fabbricazioni Nucleari), an industrial scale plant for LWR fuel fabrication located at Boscomarengo, was operated from 1973 to 1995. The decommissioning authorisation has been granted in November 2008.
EUREX pilot reprocessing facility, located at Saluggia, operated from 1970 to 1974 (MTR fuels) and from 1980 to 1983 (Candu fuels). Its main present task is to treat and condition the liquid reprocessing waste (some 120 m3 ILW and some 100 m3 LLW).
ITREC pilot reprocessing facility, located in the southern part of Italy (Trisaia), was operated in the seventies (uranium-thorium cycle fuels from the US Elk River reactor). After the solidi?cation (by cementation) of its liquid reprocessing waste, its present task is to manage many other different solid and liquid waste streams.
IPU plutonium pilot MOX fuel fabrication facility, located at Casaccia Centre, was operated from 1968 to the early eighties (MOX fuel fabrication experimental campaigns). After treatment of many radioactive waste streams (mostly high plutonium-bearing liquids), the dismantling of glove boxes is going to start using a special remotely handled installation.
AVOGADRO is a spent fuel storage facility away from reactors placed at Saluggia, sited in northern Italy. It was set up in the period 1977-1982 from a general structural reset of a previous research reactor of the MTR kind called “AVOGADRO RS-1“. AVOGADRO began storage operation on January, 1st 1984.
Nucleco, owned by SOGIN (60%) and ENEA (40%), was created in 1980 with the mission to operate the waste facilities sited in the Casaccia centre. In addition to the management of the waste produced in the Research Centre, today Nucleco is the Italian operator for collection, transportation, storage, treatment (mainly by supercompaction) and conditioning of Category II waste produced by the industrial, medical and research processes in the context of the Integrated Service coordinated by ENEA. The Integrated Service is a special technical service that ENEA offers to small producers of radioactive waste (medicine, industry, agriculture, research and education).
The Joint Research Centre of Ispra is currently undertaking a global Decommissioning and Waste Management Programme aimed to dismantle the nuclear installation that operated in the Centre as well as to perform a complete characterization and conditioning of the radioactive waste produced in the past activities. Licensing and supervision activities are conducted by the Italian authorities according to the in force agreement between the Italian Republic and the Euratom Community signed in 1960. An interim storage on the site has been recently licensed and its construction will start soon.
Spent fuel is stored in the pool storage of the Trino NPP, in the Avogadro AFR pool storage facility and in the pool storage of the Itrec reprocessing plant.
There is not a disposal facility in operation or under construction. According to Leg. Decree 31/2010, a site should be identified where to implement a LLW near surface repository and a ILW-HLW interim storage facility.
In Italy operated two pilot reprocessing facilities: Eurex and Itrec (see descriptions above).