Used nuclear fuel shipments start

Thursday, December 20, 2007

20 December 2007

On 17 December the first transport to France of irradiated fuel still present in Italy was completed. The first two special containers, with 34 of the 1243 fuel rods that will be reprocessed at La Hague, left the shut down Caorso nuclear power plant.

Caorso, a 860 MWe boiling water reactor (BWR), was closed in 1990 as a result of the Italian referendum on nuclear power that followed the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. It had operated for only 12 years.

The shipment follows the May agreement signed between Societa Gestione Impianti Nucleari (Sogin), the state company charged with clearing away nuclear facilities and materials in Italy, and Areva of France. The deal foresees the treatment of the 235 tonnes of irradiated fuel which is still in Italy: 190 tonnes are from the BWR at Caorso, 32 tonnes from the pressurized water reactor (PWR) at Trino and 13 tonnes from the BWR in Garigliano. The transportation activities will last five years in total; Three years will be needed to complete the shipment of the Caorso material.

Before 2025, the waste deriving from the reprocessing will come back to Italy in just 11 special containers. Reprocessing separates reusable uranium and plutonium from the wastes present in nuclear fuel. The dried waste is then mixed with glass and poured into steel flasks ready for ultimate storage. The flasks hold virtually all of the radioactivity that the used fuel had but occupy much less volume.

Massimo Romano, CEO of Sogin, declared: "The onset of the procedures to send away the irradiated fuel makes more real the prospective of acceleration that will allow Italian decommissioning activities to realign its timeline and its costs to international standards. The first transport, which occurred in time with the timeline agreed in the contract, was made possible by the perfect collaboration between Sogin, which had the industrial responsibility of the activity, and the numerous involved institutions and administrations."

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