An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning and Remediation (Artemis) team of experts concluded a 12-day mission on 13 July to review Italy’s programme for decommissioning nuclear facilities and managing radioactive waste. It said Italy is committed to the safe and effective decommissioning of nuclear sites and management of associated radioactive waste, and also noted areas for potential improvement.
This was the first time the IAEA has conducted its new ARTEMIS review, which was requested by the Italian government and hosted by Rome-based Sogin, the state-owned company responsible for the decommissioning and radioactive waste-management programme. Italy commissioned its first nuclear plants in the early 1960s, and after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident, decided to phase out nuclear power. It is currently decommissioning four reactors and associated nuclear fuel-cycle facilities. Italy's plans for radioactive waste management include the development of a National Radioactive Waste Repository for the disposal of low- and medium-level waste and interim storage of high-level waste.
The Artemis team said Sogin has a sound foundation and capacities in place and identified several good practices while also making recommendations and suggestions aimed at improving efficiency and reliability. The team also highlighted the need for appropriate commitment on the part of all stakeholders involved in Italy’s decommissioning and waste-management programme.
The team comprised six experts from France, Germany, Russia, the UK and the USA as well as two IAEA staff members. Christophe Xerri, Director of the IAEA’s Division of Nuclear Fuel Cycle, Waste Technology and Research Reactors, said the Sogin team was well prepared for and transparent in their discussions, which was a key factor in identifying good practices and offering practical recommendations. Good practices identified by the team included: a transparent, well-defined process for developing decommissioning budgets, including a robust and thorough cost-estimating model in line with international best practices; effective use of proven technologies as well as novel approaches to tackling challenging scenarios; an experienced team with a proactive approach to knowledge management and to developing skills and competencies through a “Young Talents” initiative.
Recommendations and suggestions included: all Italian stakeholders should assign high priority to the national repository’s siting and completion by 2025 as planned; Sogin should further enhance its planning and risk-management processes related to uncertainties typical of such complex decommissioning projects; Sogin should continue to strive to develop innovative solutions to address technical challenges. The final mission report will be provided to Sogin in about two months.