Areva of France has signed a contract with Italy's Sogin for the reprocessing of 235 tonnes of used fuel from shut down Italian nuclear power plants.
Societa Gestione Impianti Nucleari SpA (Sogin) launched a tender for reprocessing the used fuel in January 2005. The contract with Areva - worth over Eur250 million ($340 million) - follows an intergovernmental agreement signed between France and Italy in November 2006. The contract covers the transport, reprocessing and packaging of used nuclear fuel and includes 190 t of BWR fuel from the Caorso plant, 32 t of PWR fuel from the Trino Vercellese plant and 13 t of BWR fuel from the Garigliano plant.
Not included in the contract with Areva is fuel from the Latina gas-cooled reactor of the British Magnox design. The 153 MWe unit was shut down in 1987, after which the fuel was removed and sent to Sellafield in the UK for reprocessing. British Nuclear Group (BNG) Project Services is assisting Sogin to achieve the decommissioning of the Latina plant by 2020.
The fuel is to be transported from Italy to Areva's La Hague reprocessing plant in France between 2007 and 2015. After reprocessing, vitrified waste will be returned to Italy by the end of 2025. Italy will begin work on selecting a site for a geologic repository for the waste in 2009, with the final site selection being made in 2012.
Following a referendum in November 1987, provoked by the Chernobyl accident 18 months earlier, work on Italy's nuclear power program was largely stopped. In 1988, the government resolved to halt all nuclear construction, shut the remaining reactors and decommission them from 1990. All reactors are now defuelled and are in Safstor stage of decommissioning. In the mid 1990s, Enel decided to terminate nuclear fuel reprocessing, on the basis of an economical and technical evaluation and to proceed with interim dry storage of the remaining spent fuel from light water reactors.
Some 290 t of used fuel is now in dry storage in Italy, and overall 5500 cubic meters of radioactive wastes are stored. Uranium and plutonium from past reprocessing of Italian Magnox fuel is currently in storage at BNFL's Sellafield facility in the UK.
State-owned Sogin was established in 1999 to take over all Enel's and Enea's nuclear assets and to be responsible for decommissioning them. It also takes responsibility for all nuclear wastes.