Q1 - Roles and responsibilities for a nuclear program


The major stakeholders in launching and implementing a nuclear program are the Government, the Operator and the Regulator.

The government is responsible  for establishing an effective legal and national framework for nuclear safety and security.

The licensee/operator retains the prime responsibility for the safety throughout the lifetime of facilities and activities, and this responsibility cannot be delegated.

The Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA), established by law, has the role and responsibility to establish the safety criteria and requirements and review how they are considered and implemented during siting, construction, operations, waste management, decommissioning, etc,  as well as to authorize and control the related activities.


Q2 - What is intended for public communication and transparency?

The communication with public deserves a particular attention while implementing a nuclear program. It is important that the public is fully informed about the rational and reasons behind the introduction of nuclear power, the site selection for  the NPP and the arrangements for ensuring safety of nuclear power plants

Before final decisions are made it is suggested that programs of public consultation are developed, involving local communities, leaders, politicians, non-governmental organizations and other civil society stakeholders.

In communicating with public the regulatory authority. being independent , has an important role and shall build and achieve the public confidence and credibility. It is important that the public has confidence in the communication from the nuclear regulatory authority.

The communication should be transparent and appropriately balanced between openness and necessary confidentiality restrictions. It shall aim to achieve public confidence in particular from the side of the Regulator having an independent function.

Efficiency in decision-making by governmental authorities is increasingly dependent upon public trust. Public communication is one of the keys to the future of nuclear power


Q3 -  How is the site for a nuclear power plant selected?

The site selection  to construct a nuclear power plant is carried out on the basis of specific analyses to verify the technical  feasibility of the NPP on the proposed site and to verify that the NPP does not create unacceptable risks to the public and the  environment

The analyses to be performed refer to the assessment of the following:

·          site characteristics

·          severity  of external events (natural events and non-natural events) and their probability 

·          the way the NPP adversely affect  the environment.  the population and the local activities

If the site analysis indicates deficiencies, which  cannot be compensate by engineering measures, the site is rejected. When a site is found suitable after a preliminary screening process,  a systematic and more detailed analysis is performed  to identify all measures to be implemented (e.g. in the deign of the NPP) to minimize the effects of the NPP on the environment and vice versa.


Q4 -  When is a nuclear power plant considered to be safe?

A nuclear power plant  (NPP) is safe when it simultaneously complies with the following conditions: 

•          The conception of the NPP is conceived and design according to  basic safety principles and requirements

•          Appropriate measures are taken to face possible accidents according to defense in depth principle

•          The operational staff is competent and operate according to approved technical and administrative procedure

•          The operation is carried out by persons applying a sound “safety culture”. 


Q5 -  Why are nuclear power plants always situated along a river or on the coast?

The answer to this question is actually very simple: because they need cooling-water. Not only nuclear power plants need cooling-water for that matter. Also “classic” power plants (using gas, coal or fuel oil as heat source) need it and are therefore situated near rivers or canals. 

The cooling takes place in the condenser and requires large quantities of cooling-water.  After having used the cooling-water in the (nuclear) power plant, it is returned to the river or to the sea. It is obvious that this water does not contain any radioactive elements but it is warmed up once coming out from the condenser.

In case the same water is re-used to cool the condenser, it needs to be first cooled down in the cooling towers.


Q6 - How is electricity produced in a power plant?

A nuclear power plant  produces electricity in the same way as non-nuclear power plants: the heat generated by the nuclear reactions (in non nuclear power plant the heat is produced by combustion of oil ,gas or coal)  is producing  high quality steam  which makes the turbines running and through an alternator electricity is produced and transferred to the electrical network.



Q7 - What is the "white smoke" coming out of the towers of nuclear power plants?

The “smoke” coming out of the cooling towers   of the nuclear power plants is steam and is not radioactive because it is not in contact withy the primary circuit. The cooling towers serve for the evacuation of heat resulting from the condensation, within the condenser, of steam coming out of the turbines.


Q8 - What is the radioactivity?

Radioactivity is the spontaneous emission of energy from unstable atoms (isotopes). Radioactivity is no invention of man... it is a natural phenomenon ! It was discovered by accident in 1898 by the French physicist Henri Becquerel while he studied a mineral containing uranium. He had stored a photographical plate next to some uranium salts, and it was printed off without being exposed to light. Henri Becquerel thus concluded that uranium emits invisible rays, resembling to X-rays, that were discovered the year before by the German physicist Wilhelm Roentgen.

The ICRP (International Commission for Radiological Protection) establishes the effective dose  limit of 1 mSv/yr for the public, as average in 5 years. It does not include the effective dose that the public receives from the natural background. The world’s average annual effective radiation dose for the public due to natural background is 2,4 mSv/yr. In Italy the average natural background radiation dose is 3.2 mSv/yr.


Q9 - What is a radioactive waste?

The radioactive waste are radioactive substances containing radionuclide.  The radionuclides can have a natural origin (e.g. Radium 226) or   artificial origin (e.g. Cesium 137)

The radioactive characteristic of the radioactive waste are determined by:

•          the type of radionuclide and emitted radiations (alpha, beta, gamma),

•          the activity in terms of number of spontaneous emission per unit time (expressed in  Becquerel),

•          the half-life defined as  the time necessary for the radioactivity of a radionuclide to become half

The radioactive waste  is produced  by the nuclear industry  as well as by the use of radioactivity in the medical and industrial applications.

The table below shows some values of the  half-life of certain radionuclide






Iodine 131

8,0 days

Radium 226

 1 600 ans

Cobalt 60

 5,2 ans

Carbon 14

 5 730 ans


 12,2 ans

Plutonium 239

 24 110 ans

Strontium 90 

 28,1 ans

Neptunium 237

 2 140 000 ans

Césium 137

 30 ans

Iodine 129

 15 700 000 ans

Américium 241

 432 ans

Uranium 238

 4 470 000 000 ans


Q10 –  What is the radioactive release of a NPP in normal operation?

The gaseous radioactive waste produced during operation of a nuclear power plant is released in a controlled way through the stacks. Liquid radioactive waste  is also released in a controlled way. The released radioactivity (gaseous and liquid effluents) to the environment must be inferior to the limits imposed by the Authorities. These limits, of course, are very much lower than the potentially dangerous limits.


Q11 -  What is the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES)?

The scale was designed by an international group of experts in 1989 at the IAEA. It provides a classification of  the events at nuclear power plants, or other nuclear facilities, in function of the safety significance of the event.

It is also a tool for promptly communicating to the public in consistent terms the safety significance of reported nuclear and radiological incidents and accidents