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Italy begins shipments of uranium to France: report

by Staff Writers
Rome (AFP) Dec 16, 2007
A first shipment of uranium bars left a disused nuclear plant in northern Italy on Sunday bound for France, where they will be reprocessed in Le Hague, Normandy, the ANSA news agency reported.

The 34 uranium bars -- the first 7.5 tonnes of 235 tonnes of waste to be sent to France for disposal -- were first loaded in two casks onto a truck under heavy guard, then placed on a special train for the journey across the Alps.

Shipments will be made every 45 to 60 days over the next three years, according to Caorso Mayor Fabio Callori, hailing what he called "a historic day" for the town near Italy's economic hub Milan.

"We've been waiting for this moment for 20 years," he said, referring to a decision taken by Italy's environment ministry and SOGIM, the state-owned company charged with decommissioning the country's nuclear power plants.

No protesters attended the event, which was preceded by a public information campaign in the town. Christmas shoppers "hailed the passage of the casks with joy," Callori said.

Italy held a referendum on nuclear power in November 1987, a year and a half after the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, and voters rejected any expansion of the country's nuclear power industry.

The Italian government decided in 1988 to phase out existing plants.

SOGIN signed a 250 million euro (360 million dollar) contract for the transport and reprocessing of the waste with the French nuclear energy company Areva.

Areva will handle 190 tonnes from Caorso, 32 tonnes from nearby Trino and a further 13 tonnes from Garigliano, near Rome.

The waste is to be returned to Italy by the end of 2025 and stored at a site yet to be determined.

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