The face-to-face to decide where the national nuclear waste repository will rise

The face-to-face to decide where the national nuclear waste repository will rise

Sogin's confrontation with the territories begins. In December, the results will be used to draw up the definitive map of the sites where to locate the radioactive waste storage facility

Nuclear waste (Getty Images) The time has come to face-to-face on the project for the future national nuclear waste storage facility. In other words, the plant where Italy will stock approximately 95 thousand cubic meters of radioactive waste, including waste from the now disused atom supply chain and waste from nuclear medicine and industry.

Sogin, the public company in charge of decommissioning nuclear power plant, today launched the national seminar, a phase of public consultation that will last until the end of November to answer questions and doubts of those territories which, on paper, have characteristics suitable for hosting the waste deposit and persuade at least one to self-apply for the construction, which will cost 900 million euros and will last four years.

The national deposit

The national seminar is one of the most delicate phases of the process to identify the place where the storage facility will be built. Italy has accumulated years of delays and only on January 5, like a bolt from the blue, the map secreted since 2015 was published, with which 67 sites in Italy were identified as suitable for the construction of the deposit (called Cnapi, map of potentially suitable areas) between Piedmont, Tuscany, Lazio, Puglia, Basilicata, Sicily and Sardinia.

Without a self-nomination, it will be up to the ministries of the environment and economic development to decide where to place the plant. A process that Rome wants to avoid, given the low popularity of the infrastructure, although the examples in the rest of Europe, such as that of Aube in France or Cabril in Spain, show that these plants can coexist with traditional agriculture and tourism (that is in the Champagne region) or with natural oases (near which the Iberian one stands).

78 thousand cubic meters of low and very low intensity radioactive waste will be stored in the deposit and temporarily 17 thousand at medium and high intensity intensity, pending the construction of a centralized plant at European level. The warehouse will occupy 150 hectares and will consist of ninety reinforced concrete constructions, called the cells, which in turn will contain the concrete modules, where the metal containers with the waste will be placed. A matryoshka system to seal them for the next 300 years. A technological park will also be created for research and study on nuclear waste. The work will employ four thousand people and 700 the plant.

The stages of the seminar

After the opening meeting, the seminar will continue with a first national session (14 September) and then with the meetings dedicated to the regions involved: Sicily (15 September), Sardinia (28), Basilica and Puglia (26 October), Tuscany (3 November), Lazio (9), Piedmont (15). The works are closed on November 24th. If the regional days are not enough, the meetings will continue the following day to try to give space to all the interventions.

On December 15th, as explained by the managing director of Sogin, Emanuele Fontani, they will be presented "the results of the seminar", which will be added to the "over 300 observations and modification proposals" already received by the public company. At that point Sogin will have to make a further skimming of the candidate territories, arriving at a new map: the Cnai, the map of suitable areas. That will be the final list of sites among which to fish the future address of the national deposit.

Cnai will have to obtain the green light of the ministries engaged in nuclear decommissioning (Economic Development and Ecological Transition) and of the Isin, the new control authority for the atom. In particular, as the director Maurizio Pernice explained, Isin will have to review the observations and documents received by Sogin and "verify the homogeneity of the application at national level" to arrive at the shortlist of suitable sites. At that point, negotiations with the territories will open, if there is no self-nomination to definitively resolve the issue.

The unknowns

The path is anything but downhill. The announcement of the 67 areas contained in the CNAPI caused a rise of shields from the territories. It was necessary to vote in Parliament for an extension of the deadline to deliver the counter-arguments of mayors and municipalities, among which there are those who believe they have well-founded reasons for not being included in the CNAPI. The charter actually contains all those areas that were not excluded from the selection criteria identified in 2014 and revised in 2019. Now the comparison will be vis-à-vis. The spokespersons of the territories will have ten minutes and 5 slides at their disposal to intervene, although other observations can be sent by email.

Then there is the role of ISIN. The surveillance agency complains that the staff in force is lower than expected (65 people against 90 expected) and too close to retirement (12 will go there by 2021). For Sogin, who has already accumulated delays on his decommissioning plan, ISIN risks being yet another bottleneck when the time comes to validate Cnai. Until 2024, he calculates that he has to give 119 green light to the works, in some cases of practices that have been traveling since 2012 or 2014.

Finally, there is the political unknown. Italy has had to solve the problem of the deposit for years, but the governments have drawn out and CNAPI has remained under lock and key since 2015. Now the process has been unlocked but there is no certainty that, with other assets at the helm of the country, it will not may stop again. With all the risks that this entails: keeping waste scattered in 20 temporary deposits; being refused by foreign countries the willingness to host Italian waste temporarily (as France did with 13 tons of waste from the Avogadro depot, in Piedmont); not to complete the reclamation of polluted sites (Sogin today has a budget of € 7.89 billion and plans to close operations in 2036). For this reason, those who are familiar with the game know that the seminar is more than a formal passage. Only a good comparison with the territories will be able to lay the foundations to unlock the choice of the site of the national deposit already in 2022. Otherwise there is a risk of an infinite tug-of-war.

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Environment Nuclear storage nuclear energy pollution Italy Politics globalData.fldTopic = "Environment, Nuclear Storage, Nuclear Energy, Pollution, Italy, Politics"

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