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IAEA Mission Says Italy Committed to Managing Radioactive Waste Safely, Sees Areas for Improvement

Rome, Italy

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) peer review mission said Italy is committed to addressing the challenges of safely managing its radioactive waste. The review identified areas for additional efforts, including the swift approval of plans for a national repository for spent fuel and radioactive waste.  

The Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning and Remediation (ARTEMIS) review team concluded the ten-day mission to Italy on 10 October. The review was carried out at the request of Italy and hosted by the Ministry of the Environment and Energy Security (‘MASE’).

The team engaged with representatives of MASE, the National Inspectorate for Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection (ISIN), and the Italian state owned company responsible for the decommissioning of Italian nuclear plants and the management of radioactive waste, SOGIN, the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Development (ENEA) and the Joint Research Centre (JRC) Ispra.

The ARTEMIS review team comprised six experts from Canada, United States of America, United Kingdom, Slovenia, Lithuania, and France and three IAEA staff members.

Italy’s radioactive waste management responsibilities arise from decommissioning four nuclear power reactors and facilities from the country’s former nuclear power programme. All nuclear power plants were closed by 1990. Italy 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.

Italy stores waste at temporary storage sites near decommissioned nuclear power reactors and other nuclear facilities. It plans to establish a national repository comprised of a near surface disposal facility for very low level and low level waste, a centralized storage for intermediate level and high level waste as well as a technology research park. The search for a suitable site is underway.

The ARTEMIS review team concluded that the Italian counterparts are aware of the challenges of safely managing the country’s radioactive waste and are committed to addressing them.

“Italy has thoroughly prepared for the ARTEMIS review mission, proactively shared pertinent information and engaged in constructive discussions. I am confident that the mission will support Italy in managing nuclear and radiological waste,” said ARTEMIS team leader Paul McClelland, Director, Waste Management & Technical Support at Atomic Energy of Canada Limited.

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 (RD&D) programme clearly linked to supporting implementation of the national programme, and the consideration of international experience in resource planning.   

The ARTEMIS Review Team identified concrete recommendations and suggestions, including:

  • The Government should approve the 2023 National Programme, that includes geological disposal as a final destination for spent fuel and high-level radioactive waste.
  • The Government should ensure that the process for authorization of closure of the planned near surface disposal facility requires update of the safety report as part of the application.
  • The Government should take measures to ensure that the time constraints imposed on preparation and review of the safety case and safety assessment for the national repository will not compromise safety.
  • ISIN should implement its own Research and Development programme to build its expertise to review safety cases for the activities in the National Programme.

The review also acknowledged Italy’s comprehensive training and development programmes for nuclear professionals as a good practice. 

“The ARTEMIS peer review has been an excellent forum for the exchange of experiences and lessons learned in an open and transparent manner. We are grateful that the review team recognized 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,” said Mariano Cordone, Director of Nuclear Division at Ministry of MASE.

Anna Clark, Head of the IAEA’s Waste and Environmental Safety Section, said that Italy is clearly committed to the safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste. “Italy’s approach to this peer review mission has enabled open and fruitful discussions. This has allowed members of the ARTEMIS peer review team to share relevant experience, for example relating to time and resources required to plan for geological disposal.  We are confident that the findings will help Italy to further enhance the safe and effective management of spent fuel and radioactive waste” she said.

The final report from the review will be provided to the Ministry of Environment and Energy Security in two months.


The Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning and Remediation (ARTEMIS) is an integrated expert review service for radioactive waste and spent fuel management, decommissioning and remediation programmes. ARTEMIS reviews provide independent expert assessments using teams of international specialist peer reviewers convened by the IAEA and are based on the IAEA Safety Standards, technical guidance, and international good practices. This service is intended for facility operators and organizations responsible for radioactive waste management, as well as for regulators, national policymakers and other decision-makers.

The IAEA Safety Standards provide a robust framework of fundamental principles, requirements, and guidance to ensure safety. They reflect an international consensus and serve as a global reference for protecting people and the environment from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation. IAEA documents, such as Nuclear Energy Series publications, are also included in the review basis. They include practical examples to be used by owners and operators of utilities, implementing organizations, academia, and government officials in Member States, among others.

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