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IAEA Mission Says Italy Making Progress Towards Safe Dismantling of Nuclear Power Reactors

Rome, Italy

IAEA's ARTEMIS team and representatives of the Italian counterpart  (Photo: IAEA)

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts said Italy has made significant progress in preparing for the safe dismantling of major parts of two of the country’s nuclear power plants, while noting areas for potential improvement.

The IAEA team concluded on 29 June a six-day Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning and Remediation (ARTEMIS). It reviewed Italy’s plans for dismantling and removing the reactor pressure vessels (RPVs) and reactor vessel internals (RVIs) of the Garigliano and Trino Nuclear Power Plants (NPPs), shut down for decommissioning in 1982 and 1990 respectively. The Government of Italy requested the mission to receive expert advice on dismantling strategies and technologies identified by Sogin, the state-owned company responsible for Italy’s decommissioning and radioactive waste management programme. It followed an ARTEMIS mission last year to review Italy’s programme for decommissioning nuclear facilities and managing related radioactive waste.

“As part of its national strategy for decommissioning its nuclear facilities, Italy is moving forward with plans to dismantle and remove these two RPVs and their internal parts,” said team leader John Tappert, Director of the Division of Decommissioning, Uranium Recovery and Waste Programs at the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission. “Our recommendations are aimed at assisting Sogin by highlighting the strengths in their dismantling plans as well as areas for potential enhancement.”

A pioneer in nuclear power, Italy commissioned four nuclear power plants in the 1960s and 1970s. Following the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident, Italy phased out nuclear power and for several years has been engaged in decommissioning its reactors and associated fuel-cycle facilities. 

The team said Sogin has a sound foundation and capacities in place for dismantling operations, and identified several good practices while also making recommendations and suggestions aimed at improving efficiency and reliability in such operations. The team noted that the commitment of all stakeholders during the life span of the project was necessary for the safe and effective implementation of Italy’s decommissioning and waste programme.

The team comprised four experts from France, Germany, the Russian Federation and the United States as well as two IAEA staff members. The team held meetings with Sogin officials at its Rome headquarters and visited the Garigliano NPP near the city of Formia, south of Rome, where dismantling plans are most advanced.

“It is essential for Sogin to have a constant exchange of views with international nuclear experts on its strategic activities,” said Marco Ricotti, President of Sogin. “Thanks to the Agency’s contribution, we will be able to improve our approach to the engineering challenges, keeping a high level of safety for employees, citizens and the environment.” 

Good practices identified by the team included:

  • Sogin is planning for dismantling in a systematic and prudent manner, taking into account relevant international experience, current status of the NPPs and proven decommissioning practices.
  • Sogin carried out safety assessments of the preparatory work for dismantling operations.
  • Sogin effectively conducted an appropriate evaluation of technical approaches for dismantling and removing RPVs and RVIs.

Sogin has a project team in place and has taken a proactive approach to knowledge management and younger generation skills development.

Recommendations and suggestions included:

  • Sogin should consider making provisions for unexpected situations during dismantling operations.
  • Sogin should consider the possibility of alternative cutting techniques.
  • Sogin should consider greater use of 3D models to enhance planning and execution of dismantling scenarios.

Christophe Xerri, Director of the IAEA’s Division of Nuclear Fuel Cycle, Waste Technology and Research Reactors, said “We are striving to develop services to support our Member States. By requesting this review mission, Italy has demonstrated its commitment to improve its decommissioning programme.”

The final mission report will be provided to Sogin in about two months.

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