The removal of irradiated fuel is fundamental for the decommissioning of a nuclear power plant. Fuel refers to the fissile material allowing the nuclear reaction to occur within the reactor; after being used and cooled in the pools, the fuel is removed from the plant in highly resistant metallic shielding containers (cask) to be later reprocessed. This process allows the recovery of reusable materials and reduces the 5% of radioactive waste. This residual material is conditioned and reduced in size, thus, ensuring its long-term safe storage.
During the operation period of the Garigliano Plant, 532 fuel elements have been irradiated, equal to 111 tonnes of pre-irradiated heavy metals (Uranium and Plutonium). Between 1985 and 1987, 322 fuel elements were transferred from Garigliano plant to another storage site in Italy. All the fuel elements are sent to reprocessing.
- 460 fuel elements were sent to Sellafield plant in the UK, between 1969 and 2005
- 63 MOX elements and 48 half rods are under the transportation and reprocessing agreement ratified with ORANO (previously AREVA) on 27 April 2007; they have to be reprocessed in La Hague (F) plant. In 2012 the 48 half rods were transferred to France.
- In addition to that, 19 fuel rods were sent to Denmark to undergo post-irradiation tests and the resulting materials were subsequently sent to the UK for reprocessing.
Reprocessed residues will be sent back to Italy to be temporarily stored in the National Repository.