Tagged: nuclear waste

Pond decommissioning: safe and steady progress

The condition of these facilities, built in the 1950s and 60s, is well known and well understood. Both NDA and Sellafield Ltd continue to be open and transparent about progress and programmes in place to address associated hazards and risks.

Since the inception of the NDA in 2005, we have recognised the vital task of tackling the open-air storage ponds at Sellafield.

These legacy facilities represent our number one decommissioning priority.

Currently, the NDA spends £1.8bn a year at Sellafield – two thirds of its annual budget. And of this £1.8bn, one third is spent on these plants.

Work goes on around the clock, seven days a week to ensure they remain safe and secure whilst the technically complex task of retrieving and treating the various types of material the ponds contain is being progressed.

More than 100 tonnes of contaminated equipment has been removed from the Pile Fuel Storage Pond.

Progress: the Pile Fuel Storage Pond at Sellafield
Progress: the Pile Fuel Storage Pond at Sellafield

Fuel is being removed continually from that facility and we expect it to be empty and ready to be drained of water within five years.

By the end of this financial year, large amounts of radioactive sludge will begin to be pumped out of the First Generation Magnox Storage Pond.

Work goes on every day at this pond to prepare it for the removal of its contents.

The pond’s overhead crane, which had been out of action since the 1990s, has been fixed and is now being used again.

Underwater vehicles are being used to pick up spilt fuel rods from the pond floor – this is world leading innovation.

Progress is also continuing on building the new facilities which will treat and store the material once it’s taken out of the ponds. Just this year, a new sludge handling plant opened – a key enabler to the ponds programme.

Nobody should be under any illusions – this is difficult and potentially hazardous work which is expensive and takes a long time to complete.

But neither the NDA nor Sellafield Ltd is complacent about the need to remain focussed on the task and to drive safe decommissioning progress.

Source: NDA

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Sellafield completes nuclear waste store

Inside the storage facility. Copyright: Sellafield Ltd
Inside the storage facility. Copyright: Sellafield Ltd

A new storage facility designed to keep nuclear waste safe and secure has been completed by Sellafield Ltd.

The Encapsulated Product Store 3 (EPS3) in Cumbria, which contains more than 32,000 cubic metres of concrete and 7,300 tonnes of steel, is capable of storing 29,000 waste drums.

Pete Lutwyche, Sellafield Programme Director for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) said the completion of EPS 3 marks a “major milestone” in the decommissioning of Sellafield.

He added: “This facility is a key piece in the jigsaw of projects we need to clean up the most hazardous areas of the site – the NDA’s number one priority task.

“Once opened, the building will provide world-class, modern storage of waste for many years to come, pending its ultimate transfer to the safest and most secure method of dealing with this material – disposal in a deep geological facility.”

Last month Sellafield said it is looking for specialist suppliers to help with cleaning up and decommissioning the nuclear site.

Source: Energy Live News

New approach for selecting UK repository site

The UK government has published its framework policy for the long-term management of higher activity radioactive waste, including details of how it intends to work with interested communities to site a geological disposal facility.

A long-term geological repository is the UK’s favoured method for management of its intermediate- and high-level radioactive waste, with a site selection process centred on community voluntarism. Two communities in Cumbria – Copeland and Allerdale – had expressed interest in hosting a repository, but the selection process ground to a halt in January 2013 when the local county council voted against moving to the next stage of the process.

“Today we are setting out our plan to find a suitable site, based on a fundamental principle of listening to people, to make sure we have the right process in place.”

Ed Davey
Energy and climate change secretary

The government released a White Paper yesterday that updates and replaces one from 2008 using input from a public consultation conducted last year on the site selection process. it also takes account of lessons learned during the previous siting process. According to the White Paper,Implementing Geological Disposal, the government favours a “voluntarist approach”, working alongside communities that are willing to take part in the siting process. It sets out a number of initial actions to be undertaken by the government itself and by Nuclear Decommissioning Authority subsidiary Radioactive Waste Management Limited (RWM), the developer of the facility.

A two-year process will see the government and RWM work on a national geological screening exercise, preparation for engagement with communities, and development of the necessary planning processes.

Energy and climate change secretary Edward Davey said, “All this is intended to happen before formal discussions between interested communities and the developer begin, so that any community wanting to engage with the process can do so with more information and greater clarity about the nature of a development.”

Community investment

The government said that investment of up to £1 million ($1.7 million) per year would be available to each community that participates in the early stage of the siting process. This would increase to £2.5 million ($4.2 million) per year to each of those communities that then enters formal discussions. This investment would only continue whilst a community remains engaged in the process.

“We cannot be certain how long it will take to deliver an operational geological disposal facility, as the driver for the process is a partnership approach with potential host communities and will be dependent on discussions with local communities,” the government said. However, it estimated that after the initial two-year phase, it could be another 15-20 years before the site selection process is completed and construction can start.

RWM managing director Bruce McKirdy noted that the new plan “clearly positions the public at the centre of any final decision-making on where a facility is sited.” He said, “We will explain, discuss and respond to the many questions the public will inevitably have, building relationships with communities around the country, so that they have trust and confidence that we are working in partnership with them throughout this exercise.”

Davey said, “Today we are setting out our plan to find a suitable site, based on a fundamental principle of listening to people, to make sure we have the right process in place. The area that eventually hosts a geological disposal facility will benefit from significant investment in the community and hundreds of skilled jobs for decades to come.”

The waste to be disposed of in the repository would include used fuel from the UK’s existing and planned nuclear power reactors, as well as wastes from reprocessing operations at Sellafield. In addition, it will include wastes from defence, medical, industrial, and research and development activities. The current estimated volume of all such wastes is some 650,000 cubic metres.

Nuclear News Round Up (14th – 17th Apr 14)

Nuclear News Round Up (3rd – 7th Mar 14)

How France is disposing of its nuclear waste

How France is disposing of its nuclear waste

Underground lab at Bure, eastern France

The underground lab at Bure could be the final resting place for most of France’s highly radioactive waste

Half a kilometre below ground in the Champagne-Ardenne region of eastern France, near the village of Bure, a network of tunnels and galleries is being hacked out of the 160 million-year-old compacted clay rocks.

The dusty subterranean science laboratory built by the French nuclear waste agency Andra is designed to find out whether this could be the final resting place for most of France’s highly radioactive waste, the deadly remains of more than half a century of nuclear energy.

Emerging from the industrial lift there are a series of passageways about the size of an underground rail tunnel.

The walls are reinforced with steel ribs and sprayed with grey concrete and there are huge bore holes drilled 100m into the rock walls which would hold the capsules of radioactive waste. If the scheme gets the final approval, the first waste could be inserted here in around 10 years.

France generates around three quarters of its electricity from nuclear power but despite decades of activity it is no nearer a solution to the perils of nuclear waste.

Many countries agree the hazardous material – some of it at temperatures of 90C – has to be disposed of deep below ground where it can be isolated from all living things for tens of thousands of years whilst the radiation slowly reduces.

Despite advanced schemes in Finland, not a single country worldwide has an operational underground repository.

“What we did first was to demonstrate that safety can be achieved through a repository in this clay formation,” says Gerald Ouzounian, the head of international affairs for Andra, told Costing the Earth on BBC Radio 4.

Technical Test

Since 2006, they have been developing experiments to prove they can do it technically. Equipment has been set up to simulate the heat the waste will generate and to monitor the impact on the clay.

“There are still risks of water ingress especially from the shafts and the top,” says Mr Ouzounian, so they are testing ways to seal the waste using a bentonite clay plug.

French law requires companies to build a retrievable scheme, meaning that for the first few hundred years at least, they can remove the waste again should future generations find a better way to get rid of it.

But it is above ground that the real battle is taking place.

Repository plans have foundered in Britain and America due to local democratic opposition.

Britain copied the Scandinavian model based on voluntarism which allowed local communities to opt in but also built confidence by giving them a right to say no.

The British scheme was set to explore an underground laboratory in Cumbria near the Sellafield nuclear site. The local district council approved the scheme but the strategic authority – the council in Carlisle – blocked it in January 2013, sending the nuclear planners back to the drawing board.

A UK Government white paper to be published in the summer is widely expected to tweak the approval process to curb a county council’s influence. The hunt is now on for a new location.

In France, the cash was the answer. They are already spending £50m ($80m / 60m euros) every year to support local community projects and massage consent in what is a sparsely populated and neglected area.

They even arranged the underground laboratory to ensure its two entrances were in different communities so they could pay them both off and ensure wider approval.

“I supported the laboratory from the start and I won’t go back on that now,” says the local mayor Francois Henri. But he admits that if his community had wanted to block the project there would be little they could do to stop it.

“It is a project which is of national interest. Nobody has the power to stop or to block it,” says Gerald Ouzounian.

Resistance movement

He says the nation as a whole has benefited from nuclear power and all the stakeholders will help the government make the final decision.

Local resistance is muted and comes mainly from the pressure group “Bure Zone Libre”. Its members who gave me their view but not their names said it had been largely ignored.

“The voice of the people is nothing, they make public debates after decisions,” one protestor tells me.

“First stop nuclear energy and after we can talk about the waste.”

French law required a national consultation or debate on the waste dump to take place but it was troubled from the start; meetings were disrupted forcing it to conduct its deliberations online.

When the debate finally concluded recently, it recommended slowing down the repository scheme to allow for more scientific tests.

“Having a six-month debate on a project that will last 100,000 years sounds a bit ridiculous,” says Ariane Metais, one of a team of facilitators who run the engagement process around the policy.

“For a project with such environmental and ethical consequences, ‘it is just not enough’.”

If Britain were to copy the French and opt for a deep repository in clay for the vast quantities of UK waste it wouldn’t be hard to find, chuckles Gerald Ouzounian.

“You have a lot of suitable (rock) formations in the south east of England,” he says.

“The name of the clay is Callovo-Oxfordian which comes from Oxford.”

As to whether it would be easy politically to sell a nuclear dump to the citizens of Oxford, he says, is another matter.

Source: BBC News

Nuclear News Round Up (17th – 21st Feb 14)

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