BNFL's Italian job?

18 January 2005

It has been confirmed that Italy will consider reprocessing its spent fuel at BNFL’s Sellafield complex. Sogin, the state-owned company charged with handling Italy’s decommissioning responsibilities, has said that it will evaluate the possibility of temporarily exporting spent fuel to the UK for reprocessing but that no wastes would be left in the UK.

Sogin’s statement came after reports in the UK’s Guardian newspaper claimed that “Italy is hoping to export 99% of its nuclear waste to the UK” and “contracts worth £200 million are on offer to reprocess the nuclear fuel, provided that UK keeps the waste and the plutonium and uranium that would be recovered.”

Following the Italian authorities’ failed attempt to establish a waste store at Scanzano Jonico in late 2003, Sogin began to investigate alternative management strategies – the reprocessing of spent fuel among them. Italy hosts 350t of spent fuel from four shutdown reactors.

According to the Guardian, BNFL told local groups near Sellafield that it had held informal talks with Italians in the summer of 2004, but there had been no formal approach.

In December 2004 the Italian minister for trade and industry signed a decree that relieved Sogin of its former responsibility to keep the spent fuel in dry storage until an Italian repository is ready.

A call for tenders is now under preparation. It is reported that one of the conditions would be that vitrified waste must be retained by the reprocessing country until a national repository is available in Italy or 20 years have passed.

The UK Department of Trade and Industry has said that a public consultation would be held before any new reprocessing contracts were signed and that trade and industry minister Patricia Hewitt would have the final say.

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