Italy's Societa Gestione Impianti Nucleari SpA (Sogin) has awarded a €43m ($47m) contract for the construction of the Finished Product Cementation Plant (ICPF) to a consortium comprising Ansaldo Nucleare and construction firm Monsud SpA. The ICPF facility, at the Itrec facility on the Rotondella site in the province of Matera, in Basilicata, is intended for the cementation of approximately 3 cubic metres of liquid uranium-thorium solution.

This is the final product resulting from the experimental reprocessing operations performed on fuel during operation of the Rotondella plant. Some 84 elements of irradiated fuel from the uranium-thorium cycle from the Elk River experimental reactor in Minnesota, USA, were shipped to the Rotondella plant between 1968 and 1970.

Between 1975 and 1978, nuclear tests on 20 of these elements, produced three different radioactive liquid outcomes. One of these was the “final product”, consisting of recovered fuel and fission elements in a nitric-based solution. This liquid radioactive waste is safely stored at the site in a steel tank contained in a thick reinforced concrete structure.

The ICPF project involves the construction of two structures. These include the process building, where cementing activities will be carried out of approximately 3 cubic metres of final product, and the already completed annexed temporary storage facility. Approximately 170 items resulting from the cementation process will be placed in the storage building. It will also store casks containing the 64 fuel elements currently held in the plant storage pool, pending transfer to the national repository.

"The entry into operation of the plant will raise the safety levels and allow for a significant increase of the decommissioning activities of the site," Sogin said. "In 2023, decommissioning operations will grow by more than 4%, to achieve overall progress of 35%."

Image: External view of the Rotondella Itrec plant (courtesy of Sogin)