Robot used in Italy’s largest decommissioning project

Louise Smyth

Ansaldo Nuclear recently provided a bespoke robot to effectively extract and recover 2,000 drums of radioactive waste from hard-to-access storage locations at Caorso Nuclear Power Plant, as part of one of the biggest and most complex decommissioning projects in the industry.

Within the decommissioning licence, obtained in 2014, one of the key projects is the treatment and conditioning of around 860 tons of radioactive ion exchange resins and sludges, still contained in two temporary storage buildings at the Caorso facility. This waste represents more than 90% of the contamination inventory at Caorso NPP. The aim of the project is to transform this waste into final packages, with a volume reduction factor of 10, whilst emptying the two storage buildings in order to refurbish them.

Ansaldo Nuclear was contracted in 2015 by Società Gestione Impianti Nucleari (Sogin) for the retrieval, transport, treatment and conditioning of the spent resins and sludges as part of a joint venture with Javys. This will see the firm transporting a total of 5,600 200kg drums of Caorso’s radioactive waste to the Javys waste storage facility at Jaslovské Bohunice in Slovakia, to be stabilised via incineration and finally conditioned.  
 
To enable the retrieval project to start in January 2020, Ansaldo Nuclear designed, manufactured, installed and operated a bespoke Machine Retrieval System (MRS) robot to safely retrieve 2,000 drums of radioactive waste that were stored in a variety of niches within the temporary storage facilities at Caorso.  

The MRS robot, which was used to retrieve, verify, seal and pack the radioactive drums, took six months to build and install. Controlled remotely, with a double operating system in place in case of system failure, it is capable of self-recovery in the event of earthquakes or other external safety issues.

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