Shipment leaves Italy for treatment at Bohunice in Slovakia (credit: Sogin)The first shipment of 162 drums containing radioactive resins and sludge from the Caorso nuclear plant left Italy for treatment at the Bohunice treatment and conditioning plant in Slovakia on 28 January.  

Once the tests and the authorisation procedure have been completed, the remaining 5600 drums, currently stored in the temporary depots at the Piacenza site, will be sent for treatment in Slovakia. In total there will be an estimated 33 shipments.

Societa Gestione Impianti Nucleari SpA (Sogin), the state-owned company responsible for dismantling Italy's nuclear plants, said this was the second and final phase of the transport programme.

In November 2017, the first resin tanks were sent to Bohunice to carry out cold testing of the pre-treatment system and the incinerator’s power supply.

The first phase involved the shipment in June 2018 of 336 drums to perform the hot testing of the Slovakian plant, with the production of the first final products. Following the successful tests, the operational plan was approved and the shipment and treatment of the remaining waste was authorised.

Sogin said the waste represents about 70% of the volume of waste currently stored at the Caorso plant. The waste transfers will enable the three on-site interim storage buildings to be emptied and upgraded to current safety standards. This means they will be able to accommodate the radioactive waste that will be produced by the dismantling of the reactor building systems and components, avoiding the need to build new temporary storage facilities.

Sogin added that emptying the three buildings – the Low-Activity Solid Waste Building 1 and 2 and the Medium-Activity Solid Waste Building – will allow decommissioning of Caorso to be accelerated.

After treatment in Slovakia the resins and sludge from the Caorso plant, conditioned waste packages to be returned to the site after three years, ready to be then transferred to a National Repository. Conditioning will reduce the volume of the waste by up to 90%.

The transport of the drums, inside special containers placed on two road vehicles, took place in compliance with national and international legislation and under the control of the various Authorities responsible for ensuring safety.

“The treatments and conditioning are done abroad because in Italy we do not have the suitable systems,” said  Severino Alfieri, Sogin director of power plants decommissioning.

The tender for the waste treatment was won by a temporary association formed by Bratislava-based Javys and by the Stabile AnsaldoNew Clear consortium whose members are: Ansaldo Nucleare with a 70% stake , Ansaldo Energia with a 20% stake and Fata (now no longer part of the group) with a 10% stake.

The complete operation will cost €37 million ($41m) which will be charged to electricity bills.

The Caorso depot will be able to store around 95,000 cubic metres of waste, including 78,000 cubic metres of low and medium activity and about 17,000 cubic metres of high activity waste which will be temporarily stored pending disposal in a geological repository.

Photo: Shipment of waste from Caorso on 28 January (Credit: Sogin)