Sogin takes on research reactor for decommissioning

01 October 2019

Ownership of Italy's Ispra-1 research reactor has officially been transferred to Societa Gestione Impianti Nucleari SpA (Sogin), the state-owned company responsible for dismantling the country's nuclear power plants. Decommissioning of the reactor, which ceased operation in 1973, will begin once Sogin's application has been approved.

The Ispra-1 reactor (Image: Sogin)

Ispra-1 is a 5MWt heterogeneous thermal reactor at Ispra, in the province of Varese. It was the latest version of the Chicago Pile research reactor series developed by Enrico Fermi. The reactor - the first research reactor to be built in Italy - was constructed by the National Nuclear Research Council between 1957 and 1958. It operated between 1959 and 1973.

The reactor was officially transferred to the European Community in March 1961, becoming a Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission. The reactor was used for studies and research on core physics, new materials for the construction of nuclear power reactors, as well as neutron fluxes and their interaction with living matter. Since 1973, non-nuclear research evolved rapidly at the centre, especially in topics related to safety and the environment.

With its 2018 Budget Law, the Italian government entrusted Sogin with the decommissioning of the Ispra-1 reactor. During 2018, Sogin started the first activities to take charge of the reactor. These included Sogin technicians working alongside the JRC staff to acquire the necessary knowledge of the site.

On 26 September, Sogin and the European Commission signed a deed for the transfer of ownership of Ispra-1 to Sogin, implementing the ratification law which entered into force on 22 May this year.

The decommissioning of Ispra-1 will be carried out in three phases: preliminary activities, reactor dismantling and final site remediation. Sogin said these activities will start once its decommissioning application - which it plans to submit in January 2020 - is approved by the National Inspectorate for Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection.

In addition to Ispra-1, Sogin is responsible for decommissioning four nuclear power plants (Trino, Caorso, Latina and Garigliano) and five fuel cycle research plants (Eurex in Saluggia, Fn in Bosco Marengo, Opec and Ipu in Casaccia, and Itrec in Rotondella).

Researched and written by World Nuclear News