Sizewell decommissioning gets go ahead

MULTI-MILLION pound plans to decommission and demolish the Sizewell A nuclear power station over a period of more than 100 years have been approved by the Government.

By David Green

MULTI-MILLION pound plans to decommission and demolish the Sizewell A nuclear power station over a period of more than 100 years have been approved by the Government.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), a state agency which now owns the site, has five years to start work.

It has pledged to try to reduce the time span, in line with a strategy developed last year following public consultation.


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Anti-nuclear campaigners are calling for the site to be cleared within 30 years, which the NDA believes could be safely achievable.

Sizewell A, which began generating electricity in 1966 and is operated by Magnox Electric, is due to close at the end of this year.

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Under plans put forward by the company and now approved by the Health and Safety Executive, the highly radioactive spent fuel rods will be removed and ancillary buildings demolished during the first ten years.

The approval then allows the reactor building and linked parts of the plant to be left for 80 or 90 years to allow levels of radioactivity to subside - a period known as “safestore” and involving round the clock surveillance.

Nuclear industry officials say this would not only save money when the site is finally cleared - because of the high cost of working with highly radioactive materials - it would reduce risks to the workforce and local residents.

The final phase of the plan now approved would involve an eight-year period in which the site was cleared and returned to its original marsh and sand dune state.

The conditions attached to the approval state that all mitigation measures to reduce noise, dust and other adverse environmental impacts, including the impact on wildlife, must be taken and a full management plan drawn up before work starts.

A 70-page HSE report published yesterday said the conclusion was that the environmental benefits of decommissioning would “far outweigh detriments”.

Mark Wheeler, spokesman for the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, part of the HSE, said the main aim was to ensure safety of workers and local residents and to protect the environment.

But Charles Barnett, chairman of the Shut Down Sizewell Campaign, said the power station would remain a “dangerous blot on the landscape” if the owners were allowed to phase the decommissioning work over a period of more than 100 years.

“The safestore proposals are outdated. They have been discredited by the NDA and all green groups,” he said.

Bob Kury , deputy site manager at Sizewell A, said: “We will continue to review these plans in the light of the national discussions - on decommissioning strategy and the final end state of the site - being sponsored by the NDA.”

Mr Kury said the first phase of the decommissioning could be completed by 2017 and final site clearance achieved by 2110.

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