Ispra-1 reactor

In 2018 the Italian Government with the 2018 Budget Law entrusted Sogin with the decommissioning (dismantling) of the Ispra-1 reactor located in the Joint Research Center (JRC) of the European Commission of Ispra (Varese).

In 2018, Sogin started all necessary procedures to acquire the Site. Sogin’s technical staff worked side by side with CCR personnel to collect information about the Site. In this initial stage, the activities implemented have included: Identification of the perimeter and scope of industrial area and assets subject to works, and administrative and technical inspection of the Site. More specifically, said inspection included two studies, one related to the legal, accounting, and administrative aspects, while the other focused on the environmental and radiological conditions of the area. 

In September 2019, Sogin and CCR-Ispra ratified a document to confirm its acceptance of the site and formalize Sogin’s management of the Ispra-1 reactor.

The deed transfers the ownership of the plant to Sogin, implementing the ratification law of the agreement signed in 2009 by the Italian Government and the European Commission, which entered into force on 22 May 2019.

With this signing, Sogin takes the responsibility for the dismantling of a further Italian nuclear plant, in addition to the four nuclear power plants - Trino, Caorso, Latina and Garigliano – and the five fuel cycle research plants – Eurex in Saluggia, Fn, in Bosco Marengo, Opec and Ipu in Casaccia and Itrec in Rotondella. This acknowledges the value of the experience acquired by Sogin in decommissioning and radioactive waste management.

The decommissioning activities of the Ispra-1 reactor are scheduled in three phases: preliminary activities, reactor dismantling and final site remediation. These activities will start only after the approval, by the Control Authority ISIN, of the decommissioning application, which will be presented by Sogin within January 2020.

Pool Reclamation

In 2020, after the acquisition of ISPRA-1 reactor, Sogin launched the first project for the reclamation of the pool containing about 200 cubic metres of water. This activity follows the operations carried out by ISPRA CCR over the previous years, namely the removal of activated metal components and metal debris and sludges. 

The pool emptying operations involve radiological decontamination and filtration of water, performed through specific treatments based on the selectivity of ion exchange resins for remaining radionuclides; the same process used during the reclamation of Saluggia EUREX Plant. The emptying operations, launched in February 2021, envisage the cleaning of 5-cubic metres portions, according to the capacity of the plant for the treatment of liquid effluents. 

At the end of the treatment, the water will be discharged according to the Site discharge system. The activity is estimated to be completed by 2024.

Radioactive waste management

At the end of 2022, the volume of radioactive waste in Ispra-1 site amounts to 115 cubic metres. The volume can vary based on the year, the continuation of safe maintenance and decommissioning activities and the conditioning techniques for previous waste. 

Amount (in cubic metres) of radioactive waste, divided by type, located in Ispra-1 site on 31/12/2022

Short-lived substances Very Low-Level Waste Low Level Waste Intermediate Level Waste High Level Waste

0 110 4 1 0
Total 115

​The reactor’s history

Ispra-1 is a 5 MW research reactor, the latest version of the Chicago-Pile 5 series developed by Enrico Fermi, built by the National Nuclear Research Council - then CNEN, and finally ENEA - between 1957 and 1958. Becoming operational in 1959 and used until 1973, it was the first Italian research nuclear reactor. With the establishment of the European Atomic Energy Community (CEEA) in 1957, the Ispra Nuclear Studies Center was sold by Italy, for a period of 90 years, to the same CEEA in 1959, while the Ispra-1 was entrusted to the management of EURATOM starting from 1st March 1963. The reactor was used for studies and research on core physics, new materials for the construction of commercial reactors, neutron fluxes and their interactions with living matter, and played a role in the formation of a new generation of technicians for European and Italian nuclear programs.