Since its very foundation, ENEA performs R&D on nuclear fission. Within the new government Programme relaunching nuclear energy as electric power source, the Agency intensified its participation in the most important international research programmes by supporting the national industry’s growth in know-how and skills.
The technical and scientific activities are mainly R&D on advanced and innovative nuclear systems and medium-, long-term problem solving associated with the availability of fuel resources and minimization of long-life radioactive waste.
ENEA also performs training and dissemination of information aimed at increasing the sector’s expertise and the public knowledge of the different aspects of nuclear energy in order to increase its acceptability.
ENEA R&D is carried out by using experimental facilities for testing and qualification of materials, components and systems, and nuclear research reactors for physical tests and nuclear medicine applications.
With its broad background of know-how and expertise, ENEA is a qualified technical and scientific actor capable of supporting Institutions – especially the National Agency for Nuclear Safety – for all safety, protection and control activities associated with the design, realization, operation and decommissioning of nuclear plants. It also contributes to the identification of suitable sites for the storing and final disposal of radioactive waste in full respect of public health and the environment.
Main R&D activities:
Advanced Nuclear Systems:
R&D on new-generation nuclear systems (advanced LWRs, Generation IV reactors) and on small and medium nuclear fission reactors. Particularly as regards Generation IV nuclear reactors, ENEA develops and manages technology infrastructures supporting the design and feasibility demonstration of liquid-metal-cooled reactors (LFR – Lead-cooled Fast Reactor, SFR – Sodium-cooled Fast Reactor) and gas-cooled reactors (VHTR – Very High Temperature Reactor).
Development of test facilities for qualifying prototypical components and systems of commercial or innovative Nuclear Power Plants (AP1000, EPR, LFR, etc.), definition, design and performing of test campaigns and interpretation of results.
Diagnosis and medical therapy techniques by using modulable neutron flow-channels of nuclear research reactors (neutron radiography and tomography); characterization of materials under irradiation; neutronic codes validation.
Characterization of nuclear reactor materials:
Experimental characterization of fuel claddings and structural materials (austenitic steels, ferritic/martensitic steels, oxide dispersion strengthened steels, coatings, etc.) for applications in fast spectrum liquid metal-cooled systems and High Temperature Reactors; qualification of structural materials in heavy liquid metal; destructive and non-destructive tests on materials and components.
Characterization of nuclear materials and radioactive wastes:
Manipulation and radiochemical characterization of materials containing radioisotopes through gamma spectrometry scan and in variable geometry, characterization of α- and β-emitting radionuclides, passive neutron assay and element analysis through fiber-optic and mass ICP. National Contact Point to prevent against illegal traffic of nuclear materials.
Radioactive waste management:
Innovative techniques for safe nuclear waste disposal; reliability analyses for the definition of suitable sites for production plants and radioactive waste disposal; national integrated system for the collection of non-electronuclear radioactive wastes and sources.
Modelling and simulations:
Development of engineering models and reactor processes simulation for safety and design studies on current and future nuclear systems and their fuel cycle; simulation of advanced control and protection systems; decision support models for plant operators; innovative man-machine interface systems.
All research is carried out within the framework of: national R&D programmes funded by the Italian Ministry for Economic Development (specifically, as provided by the Programme Agreement on Electric System Research) and the Ministry of Universities and Research; EU projects funded by EURATOM; other important international initiatives.
ENEA collaborates with the major national and international institutions, universities and research bodies. It is active part of agreements signed with the most important international nuclear organizations (International Atomic Energy Agency, Nuclear Energy Agency, EURATOM), and participates in the main EU research programmes (SNETP, EERA, ESNII, etc.). It also collaborates and exchanges researchers with the two major French nuclear research bodies (Commissariat à l’Énergie Atomique and Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire) as well as with US-DOE labs.
Training of nuclear plant technicians, operators and managers is carried out in collaboration with the principal Italian universities (CIRTEN – Interuniversity Consortium for Technological Nuclear Research), the reference ministries (Ministry for Economic Development, Ministry of Universities and Research, and Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea), and the major sector industries and training companies.
Scientific information dissemination and information to the public on the use of nuclear energy are carried out in collaboration with institutions, universities and industries by way of: scientific publications, the ENEA review “Energia, Ambiente e Innovazione”, the ENEA web site as well as seminars, conferences and public meetings.