An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste & Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning & Remediation (ARTEMIS) mission has concluded the ten-day mission to Italy. 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 & Radiation Protection (ISIN); the Italian state company responsible for the decommissioning of Italian NPPs and the management of radioactive waste, SOGIN; the National Agency for New Technologies, Energy & Sustainable Development (ENEA); and the Joint Research Centre (JRC) Ispra.

The team comprised six experts from Canada, the USA, the UK, 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 its former nuclear power programme. All NPPs 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 areas.

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

The team concluded that Italian experts were aware of the challenges of safely managing the country’s radioactive waste and were 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 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 & Demonstration (RD&D) programme clearly linked to supporting implementation of the national programme, and the consideration of international experience in resource planning.

The ARTEMIS team made 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 authorisation of closure of the planned near surface disposal facility requires updating 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 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,” said Mariano Cordone, Director of the Nuclear Division at MASE. “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,”

Anna Clark, Head of the IAEA’s Waste & 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.

Image: ARTEMIS has concluded its mission to Italy to assess the country's commitment to safe disposal of radioactive waste