Sizewell A: New nuclear waste store could be set for decommissioned site

PUBLISHED: 12:14 14 May 2013 | UPDATED: 12:14 14 May 2013

Mike Page Aerials

Sizewell 2012

EADT 9.7.12

Mike Page Aerials Sizewell 2012 EADT 9.7.12

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New buildings – including a £10million store – could be located on the Sizewell A site to help deal with the power station’s legacy of radioactive waste, it has been disclosed.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has begun a public consultation over the options for processing and storing “intermediate level” waste created during the station’s 40 years of operation, which ended in 2006.

The option most likely to be adopted is the creation of a plant which uses acid to part-dissolve debris from the station’s uranium fuel elements and the building of a store capable of holding the residue from this process and tonnes of other radioactive waste.

However, the options also include the transport of fuel element debris to another power station site or the use of the Sizewell site for the processing of debris from other stations, as well as its own. High-level radioactive waste – comprising thousands of spent fuel elements from the two redundant Sizewell A reactors – is gradually being transported to Sellafield in Cumbria.

The nuclear industry now faces a challenge in trying to safely store all its intermediate level waste, comprising contaminated sludges and resins, as well as the debris from all the fuel elements used over the decades. Such waste is currently stored on site in temporary vaults.

The Government wants all intermediate waste to be buried in a deep disposal facility but, with no suitable site identified, officials accept it will not be available until at least 2040.

A public meeting in Saxmundham called by the Sizewell Stakeholder Group – set up to improve the flow of information between the site operators, regulators and the community – heard from officials that the processing of the fuel element debris at Sizewell A and other sites was aimed at reducing the volume of waste.

Pete Wilkinson, a Suffolk-based environment consultant, said plans to treat fuel element debris amounted to a policy of “dissolve and disperse” as the process would lead to radioactivity being discharged to sea and air. “You would simply be moving the problem from the site to the environment,” he said.

But officials said a judgement had to be made on factors including cost, environmental impact and risk to power station workers and the public.

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