Explosive plan for power station

A COMMUNITY which is already living with the threat of a terrorist attack on a nuclear power site now faces the possibility of explosives being used to demolish part of the Sizewell A plant, it has emerged.

By David Green

A COMMUNITY which is already living with the threat of a terrorist attack on a nuclear power site now faces the possibility of explosives being used to demolish part of the Sizewell A plant, it has emerged.

Officials drawing up plans to demolish the plant at the end of its operating lifetime say they have not yet decided whether to use explosive charges.

However, they have given an assurance that, if the method is employed, local residents will be informed in advance to prevent panic.

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Disclosure that the use of explosives is being considered comes as a result of publication of the formal Environmental Impact Assessment of plans to decommission the A station.

The document has been published only a week after the revelation that drawings and slides of the layout of Sizewell B were found in a car linked to one of the alleged London tube bombers.

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Sizewell A is due to cease generating electricity at the end of next year after a 40-year operating lifetime.

The British Nuclear Group is seeking Government approval to phase the demolition of the plant over a period of between 93 and 113 years in order to save money and reduce radiation risks for workers.

The plan is to demolish non radiation-risk ancillary buildings in the first ten years and then leave the power station in a “safestore” condition until the twin reactors are dismantled and removed.

However, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, a body appointed by the Government to take charge of the work, is currently consulting on its suggestion that the demolition period can safely be reduced to 25 or 30 years.

The environmental assessment identifies the likely impact of demolition work on the area and sets out plans to minimise disturbance to local residents and the coastal stretch.

It makes clear that no decision has yet been made over whether to use explosives to demolish parts of the power station.

“In the event that the use of explosives for demolition is proposed, members of the public and operators at Sizewell B will be informed in advance of the event.

“This will avoid the surprise element of the impact. Good blasting practice will also be adopted,” the document states.

Peter Lanyon, spokesman for the Shut Down Sizewell Campaign, described the idea of exploding anything radioactive as “ridiculous”, and also called for the demolition process to be as short as possible.

He added: “In the Environmental Statement, they suggest a storage time of 85 to 105 years while the radioactivity reduces.

“The Shut Down Sizewell Campaign favours a much shorter storage period so that the materials can be removed much more quickly, in 35 years.

“This is done elsewhere, Italy are doing it to similar sorts of reactors. It's safe.”

The assessment also details that noise coming from the Sizewell A site would increase by a maximum of 6.6 decibels to 58 decibels during the initial ten-year demolition period.

Peak heavy good vehicle journeys are expected to be 17 a day in the first ten years and 25 a day during the final demolition phase.

About 400 workers would be on site during the first phase of demolition work and 450 would be involved in final site clearance.

Radioactive discharges to the sea and air will continue during the decommissioning phase but at a reduced level compared with normal operation.

High level radioactive waste - primarily spent fuel elements - will continue to be sent to the Sellafield reprocessing works but intermediate level waste might be stored on site until a national dump becomes available.

Most of the low level radioactive waste would continue to be taken to a dump in Cumbria but some “very low level” waste could be stored on site.

Pat Hogan, Sizewell residents' spokeswoman, said decommissioning would be a “replay” of the construction period.

“We would look to be reassured that all the issues identified in the document will be addressed in detail and that residents will be given similar consideration as when the B station was built,” she added.

Copies of the British Nuclear Group's environmental impact assessment are available free of charge on CD-ROM from the Information and Document Centre, British Nuclear Group, Berkeley, Gloucestershire, GL13 9PB. Hard copies of the non-technical summary are also available.


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