EDF Energy has inaugurated a new ‘dry store’ for used nuclear fuel that enables continued operation of the Sizewell B nuclear power plant until at least 2035. The plant, which is in Suffolk, accounts for 3% of the UK’s total electricity demand.
Inside the new dry fuel store at Sizewell (Image: EDF Energy)
A dry fuel store is a method of storing used nuclear fuel that has already been cooled in the used fuel pond. The fuel is loaded into a metal canister which is then welded shut, and then placed within a large, leak-tight steel and concrete cask. The development at Sizewell B marks a UK first for Holtec International’s Dry Fuel Storage technology, which is used across the USA and Europe.
With testing now complete the dry fuel store is being prepared to take its first delivery of used fuel. In parallel the final stage of the approvals process is being completed for submission to the Office for Nuclear Regulation, EDF said on 31 March. The dry fuel store will safely house used fuel from Sizewell B from Autumn 2016 onwards until a geological disposal facility is available for the longer term storage of used fuel, it added.
Inaugurating the facility with Holtec president and CEO Kris Singh and Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey, EDF Energy CEO Vincent de Rivaz said: “We are continuing to make investments to safely improve the performance of our nuclear power stations and to allow them to operate longer.”
EDF Energy, which operates eight nuclear power plants, announced last month it planned to extend the expected closure dates of Heysham 1, Heysham 2 and Hartlepool – all in England – and Torness in Scotland.
“As well as investing in our existing stations we are also advancing our plans for the next generation of nuclear power stations in Britain, including here at Sizewell. We are confident that we will be moving ahead soon and launching our project for two reactors at Hinkley Point C in Somerset which will pave the way for the next stage of consultation for Sizewell C.”
The planned Hinkley Point C plant – the first new nuclear power plant built in the UK in almost 20 years – is scheduled to begin operating in 2025. Together, the two EPR reactors at Hinkley will provide about 7% of the UK’s electricity. Under a deal agreed last October, China General Nuclear will take a 33.5% stake in EDF Energy’s £18 billion ($28 billion) project to construct the plant. In addition, the two companies will develop projects to build new plants at Sizewell and also at Bradwell, in Essex, the latter using Chinese reactor technology.
Last year Sizewell B achieved a UK nuclear industry record for any one plant, delivering 10.5 TWh of electricity – enough to power 2.6 million homes for a year, EDF Energy said.
In March 2014, the plant’s new off-site Emergency Response Centre became fully operational, which the company said was a key milestone in its £180 million investment at its nuclear power plants.
Under the current arrangements, all the used fuel from Sizewell B’s reactor since it began producing low-carbon electricity in 1995 is safely stored under water in a fuel storage pond which was never designed for the lifetime of the plant. The fuel storage pond takes fuel from the reactor core and this used fuel is both hot and highly radioactive. The water in the pond both cools the fuel and forms a highly effective radiation barrier between the used fuel and its surrounding environment.
Planning permission for the dry fuel store was granted in July 2011, but a number of planning conditions had to be met before work could begin. Suffolk Coastal District Council’s Planning Committee gave the final go-ahead for the facility in September 2012.
Source: World Nuclear News