An experimental nuclear fusion device could be seen as a step toward the development of the future nuclear fusion power plant. If compared with other possible solutions to the energy problem, nuclear fusion has advantages that ensure sustainability and security. In particular, considering the radioactivity and the radioactive waste produced in a nuclear fusion plant, the component materials for the plant could be selected in order to limit the decay period, making recycling possible in a new reactor after about 100 yr from the beginning of decommissioning. To achieve this and other pertinent goals, many experimental machines have been developed and operated worldwide in the last decades, underlining that radiation protection and worker exposure are critical aspects of these facilities due to the high-flux, high-energy neutrons produced in the fusion reactions. Direct radiation, material activation, tritium diffusion, and other related issues pose a real challenge to demonstrating that these devices are safer than nuclear fission facilities. In Italy, for the past 30 yr, a limited number of fusion facilities have been constructed and operated, mainly at the ENEA Frascati Center, where a new one, the Italian Divertor Tokamak Test Facility (DTT), is now under development. The radiation protection approach, addressed by national licensing requirements, shows that respecting the constraints for worker exposure to ionizing radiation is not always straightforward. In the current analysis the main radiation protection issues encountered in the Italian fusion facilities are considered and discussed, and the technical and legal requirements are described. The licensing process for this kind of device is outlined and compared with that of other European countries.

The following aspects are considered throughout the current study: description of the installation, plant, and systems; suitability of the area; buildings and structures; radioprotection structures and organization; exposure of personnel; accident analysis and relevant radiological consequences; and radioactive waste assessment and management.

In conclusion, the analysis points out the need for special attention to the radiological exposure of workers in order to demonstrate at least the same level of safety as that reached at nuclear fission facilities.