Sizewell A power station’s heart falls silent as control room is finally closed down

For the first time in half a century, the main control room at a Suffolk nuclear power station which has generated enough electricity to boil a trillion kettles has fallen silent.

Defuelling work has been under way at Magnox’s Sizewell A site since 2007 and the latest phase has seen the facility that has kept the site’s heart beating 24 hours a day since power generation began in 1966 finally closed down.

Steve Pybus, who has worked in the control room for more than 20 years,said the array of buttons, switches and dials controlling the former power station was a spectacular sight.

He said: “A significant period of my life, and that of my colleagues, has been spent operating the station from here.

“People often say it resembles something like the starship Enterprise, and coincidentally Star Trek was first broadcast in the same year that generation at Sizewell began.

“It is a sad and historic moment to see it empty, but a lot of work has been undertaken to prepare for this moment.”

The move, which will eventually lead to the area being dismantled, is part of an extensive programme of work taking place at the site, which sits alongside Sizewell B.

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It follows regulatory agreements that the site, which Magnox said generated enough power to boil more than one trillion kettles during a 40 year period, is now fuel free.

The company confirmed that the 52,000 fuel elements previously held in Sizewell’s two reactors have left the site, which means that 99 per cent of the radioactive hazard has been removed.

Site director Tim Watkins said: “While this is the end of an era, it is very much a sign that decommissioning is starting to take shape.

“Magnox is leading the way at cleaning up this first generation of reactors in the UK and we will be applying all of the lessons we have learned at other sites to safely move Sizewell A to its closure point while delivering best value for the taxpayer.”

Sizewell A is likely to remain part of the landscape for many years to come. After decommissioning, expected to be complete by 2028, the site will be kept in a passively safe and secure state for a great number of years to allow radiation levels within buildings such as the reactor safestores to naturally decay over time. Only once this is complete can the buildings be demolished.

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