Community ‘missing out on cash bonanza’ as Sizewell B spent fuel not called nuclear waste

Inside the Dry Fuel Storage facility at Sizewell B, where they keep all the radioactive fuel rods on

Inside the Dry Fuel Storage facility at Sizewell B, where they keep all the radioactive fuel rods once they are spent. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

Members of a watchdog group say communities in east Suffolk are potentially missing out on millions of pounds because the Government does not classify spent fuel from Sizewell B as nuclear waste.

The reactor dome of Sizewell B Nuclear Power Station. Picture: CHRIS RADBURN

The reactor dome of Sizewell B Nuclear Power Station. Picture: CHRIS RADBURN - Credit: PA

Used fuel rods from the nuclear power station are being kept in a dry fuel store – with ministers no closer to finding a site for a national geological disposal facility for radioactive waste.

Four years ago after Cumbria rejected a plan to bury the waste deep into rock near Sellafield, Whitehall officials said communities would get up to £40million if they allowed a site to be used as a dump.

Meanwhile, members of the Sizewell Stakeholder Group (SSG) have argued that Sizewell is already fulfilling such a use as it keeps nuclear waste in its new £200million dry fuel store, though the Government refuses to allow the spent radioactive elements to be called nuclear waste – and so the Leiston, Sizewell, and Aldeburgh area is not entitled to receive any Government grant aid in mitigation.

SSG member Tom Griffith-Jones said he believed it was a Whitehall “sleight of hand” to avoid dealing with the disposal problem.

Inside Sizewell B. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Inside Sizewell B. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

He said: “We have been looking for a solution for the nuclear waste problem for longer than 40 years and we are no nearer to finding a site for a geological disposal facility.

“The material being kept in the dry fuel store is nuclear waste – that is what it is and that’s what it should be called. To say otherwise is just deviousness.

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“But if it’s not called nuclear waste then this part of Suffolk will not get a penny in community benefits to offset the nastiness of having it on our doorstep.”

Some SSG members have voiced concern over the length of time the spent fuel could be stored in the casks at Sizewell B, and that the amount at the site will clearly increase if the twin-reactor Sizewell C plant is built.

The dry fuel store is designed to hold 100 years-worth of spent fuel – long beyond the remainder of the expected 60 years of operation of the power station. Inside the store, fuel elements removed from the reactor are welded into a metal canister and then encased in stainless steel and concrete.

The Nuclear Decommission Authority has disputed the description of the spent fuel – saying that it is not waste but could be reprocessed and re-used.

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