The UK’s Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has given its consent for a project to decommission the two-unit Wylfa nuclear power station on the island of Anglesey in north Wales.
The ONR said the decision follows “extensive consultation” and takes into account factors such as the information provided by licensee, Magnox Limited, the conclusion that environmental benefits will outweigh any detriments and the prediction there will be “no significant effects on other countries”.
Magnox Ltd originally obtained consent to decommission Wylfa’s two 490-megawatt gas-cooled reactors in March 2009, expecting that commercial operation of both units would be halted within five years.
However, due to extended electricity generation, Wylfa is not expected to shut down completely and begin decommissioning until around the end of 2014 or possibly later depending on operational plans, the ONR said. By this time the current consent will have expired and so Wylfa sought new consent.
The NDA has today published a pilot report covering a number of major projects and programmes. The intention is to give stakeholders greater visibility on the major projects and programmes that are strategically important for our mission.
The first version of the Priority Programme Report is a pilot which looks at six major projects or programmes: four at Sellafield; one for the Magnox sites; and one for Dounreay.
The report covers progress against the current lifetime plan of the relevant site, with targets and objectives aligned to the NDA’s annual Business Plan.
The intention is to publish the report every six months and the NDA will consider which further projects and programmes will be included in future reports after taking account of feedback received from the pilot. The NDA welcomes feedback on the presentation of the data in the pilot report. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
An important stage in the construction of the Box Transfer Facility (BTF) at Sellafield was reached recently when the project completed the breakthrough into the sites existing Encapsulation Plants active underground transfer tunnel from the BTF construction site.
When complete, BTF will provide the ability to transfer legacy waste from the Magnox Swarf Storage Silos (MSSS), which has been encapsulated into 3 m³ product boxes within the Silos Direct Encapsulation Plant, to interim safe storage at either the Encapsulation Product Store 3 or the Box Encapsulation Plant Product Store.
New cutting and decontamination methods are being trialed to clear away old equipment more quickly and free space to store higher priority wastes at Sellafield.
A plasma arc cutter in action during research (Image: Sellafield Ltd)If demonstrated, the technique could be used to cut up hundreds of old skips that were used to hold used nuclear fuel rods from Magnox reactors in Sellafield’s Fuel Handling Plant. If the skips can be reduced in size then the space they take up can be used for a much higher priority decommissioning project – the clean-up of the 60-year old First Generation Magnox Storage Pond (FGMSP).Head of FGMSP Martin Leafe said that completing the disposal route for the skips is vital to the plan to start retrieving legacy fuel from the pond in 2015.A trial skip was cut up at Sellafield using an underwater plasma arc and the pieces were then taken to Magnox Ltd’s decommissioning centre at Hinkley Point A. There the metal parts are to be stripped of paint and milled to remove sub-surface contamination. Leafe said that collaborating with Magnox Ltd in this way could save “potentially millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money.” Ultimately, some 2000 skips are to be disposed of and this will be cheaper if they can be effectively decontaminated and reduced in size. The plasma arc method was selected after experiments with fibre lasers and diamond wire.
Cleaning up the FGMSP is one of the highest priorities in UK nuclear decommissioning due to the corrosion suffered by the fuel over time and the resulting highly radioactive sludge. Tackling this has involved a long-running and innovative program of remote underwater surveys and development of new techniques to handle and store the sludge safely.
It is the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority that manages the assets and facilities from the UK’s former national research and nuclear power program. The work is funded partly by government and partly by income from those NDA facilities that remain in commercial operation – including one Magnox reactor at Wylfa and the Thorp reprocessing plant.
Bradwell-on-Sea identified as potential site to dump radioactive waste
Nuclear Decommissioning Authority proposes use of Essex site to store intermediate level waste until 2040
The nuclear power station in Bradwell-on-Sea closed in 2002 and is being decommissioned. Photograph: Steve Morgan/Alamy
When it comes to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, the only way is Essex. Bradwell-on-Sea has been identified as a possible site to dump radioactive waste.
“Everybody was aghast when a local representative from the NDA stated that the possibility was being looked into,” Brian Beale, a district councillor for Maldon, told the Essex Chronicle. “To say this could happen when it had always been understood that Bradwell was not intended to be a site for waste, created uproar.”
Nuclear materials are already being stored at Bradwell, a former nuclear power station that closed in 2002 and is being decommissioned. The operating company, Magnox Electric, was fined £250,000 in 2009 for presiding over a radioactive leak that had gone undetected for 14 years.