Nuclear waste store opened at Sizewell B power station
- Credit: Sarah Lucy brown
Suffolk became home to the UK’s first dry nuclear fuel store as the facility opened at Sizewell B yesterday.
The £200m store, paid for through the Nuclear Liabilities Fund, could house uranium oxide waste until 2055, if EDF Energy extends the plant’s life by 20 years.
All waste created since Sizewell B started generating in 1995 has, until now, been kept in storage ponds – but as the ‘wet’ store nears capacity, the new build will allow spent fuel to be welded into metal canisters, cleaned, and locked in concrete casks.
Station director, Paul Morton welcomed guests to the opening, before EDF chief executive, Vincent de Rivaz said: “This technology is tried and tested across the world, and had to satisfy the UK’s world-leading nuclear safety requirements, and the needs of Sizewell B.”
Mr de Rivaz said the facility set a “new global benchmark” for spent fuel storage. He also emphasised his confidence in a final investment decision being made for construction of the Hinkley Point C plant – paving the way for the second stage of consultation for Sizewell C.
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“The revival of nuclear is about to start,” he added.
Dr Kris Singh, head of storage system supplier, Holtec International, said the process required meeting the safety expectations of EDF and the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), which he called the “most rigorous” his firm had encountered. He said the UK had “unequalled” commitment to safety, and that standing beside a canister posed less radiation risk than standing in the sun.
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Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey said: “It is important that community interests are taken into account. I believe EDF is more proactive than almost any company in taking that responsibility seriously.”
She said the Government had a ‘key policy triangle’ of energy security, affordability, and environmental responsibility.
“We are here as critical friends,” she added. “We want EDF and Holtec to succeed, but in a safe way.”
EDF would not divulge details of the radioactive content of the new store, due to guidance about information regarding nuclear materials in specific locations.
The firm said it would continue to store waste until a deep geological disposal facility was made available. At present, intermediate waste is stored above ground, but the Government is seeking an underground site.
Outgoing Sizewell B director, Jim Crawford, who is now project development director for Sizewell C, said: “That is currently the expectation. How the Government delivers it will be for them, but there is no technical reason it cant be achieved.”