On February 23, 2022 I visited for the first time the nuclear area of Saluggia, Piedmont (Italy). The site is well known among decommissioning experts and Piedmont residents for its critical conditions due to the presence of a high-waste deposit located next to the river Dora Baltea. The nuclear area is formed by two distinct but adjacent installations: the former research reactor Avogadro built in the 1960s to produce medical radioisotopes (Pic. 1) and former CNEN/ENEA spent fuel reprocessing plant EUREX (Pic. 2). The Avogadro reactor has been decommissioned and dismantled and Sogin (the state owned company responsible for nuclear decommissioning in Italy) transformed the container building into a temporary deposit of liquid and solid waste produced by the EUREX reprocessing plant. Saluggia is part of of Italy’s nuclear geography and one of the sites undergoing decommissioning since the early 1990s.
The Saluggia sites are also interesting for the history of their “emplacement.” They were built inside the river basin of the Dora Baltea, where the Cavour Canal (Pic. 3) and the Farini Canal (Pic. 4) form a sort of water triangle. Water is an essential component of nuclear technology, but also to agriculture. Saluggia sits close to the Vercelli area, famous for its rice fields. Irrigation through water canals alimented by the Po river and by the Dora Baltea river have been part of the landscape for centuries.
How is the “displacement” of the nuclear sites going to interact with the wet environment of the area? How are the hydraulic defenses built to protect the temporary high-waste deposit after the flooding of the Dora Baltea in 2000 working? The logic of “emplacement” corresponds to the need of preventing unwanted and uncontrolled interactions of nuclear sites with the surrounding environment: leakages but also water flooding inside the area have to be avoided. What happens during the decommissioning of nuclear sites? Who plans and works it out? These and other questions are at the core of my project NUCLEARDECOM. Stay tuned as I try to answer these and other questions…
Pic. 1 Avogadro deposit seen from the Cavour Canal
Pic. 2 Former EUREX reprocessing plant (a few on the right runs the Dora Baltea river)
Pic. 3 Cavour Canal

Pic. 4 Confluence Farini Canal with Cavour Canal

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