Go-ahead given for Sizewell nuclear waste store to be operational
- Credit: Sarah Lucy brown
EDF Energy has been given the go-ahead to start using its new £200million dry fuel store at the Sizewell B nuclear power station.
The go-ahead, from the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), comes two months after the company submitted details of the precautions it would take to safely operate the facility
EDF staff have spent the past few months testing the plant inside the state-of-the-art store which covers an area equivalent to a football pitch.
The company started planning the new store five years ago after it became clear that the existing facility, which stores highly radioactive spent fuel under water, was nearing capacity.
It applied to the ONR in October for permission in the form of a “licence instrument” to start using the new facility and a go-head has now been given.
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Under current Government policy all spent nuclear fuel elements and other high level radioactive waste will eventually be deposited in an underground store drilled deep into the rock at a site yet to be identified, but most likely to be in either Cumbria or the north of Scotland.
However, EDF is having to make contingency plans in the event of such a facility not being available.
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The new Sizewell B store is capable of holding all the spent fuel from the remainder of the expected 60 years of operation of the power station. Inside the store, fuel elements removed from the reactor will be encased in stainless steel and concrete.
A go-ahead to use the new store will be met with relief by EDF. Early forecasts were that, because of tighter restrictions on the storage of spent fuel elements, the existing store would reach capacity in 2015. But space has somehow been found.
If capacity had been reached, electricity generation by Sizewell B would have had to be suspended, costing the company many millions of pounds in lost revenue and causing deep embarrassment at a time when the industry is about to begin the construction of the first new nuclear power station since Sizewell B – at Hinkley Point in Somerset.
An ONR spokesman said: “ONR signed the licence instrument on December 21 giving consent to allow EDF to move into the active commissioning phase of the dry store.”