Removal delay for radioactive fuel

Removal of the highly radioactive fuel from the Sizewell A nuclear power station in north Suffolk could be delayed by up to three years, it has been disclosed.

Removal of the highly radioactive fuel from the Sizewell A nuclear power station in north Suffolk could be delayed by up to three years, it has been disclosed.

The work, involving the phased transfer of 52,000 spent fuel elements to a cooling pond and then transport to the Sellafield reprocessing works in Cumbria, was due to have started this year in tandem with the similar removal of fuel from the Dungeness A plant in Kent.

But problems with the ageing processing plant at Sellafield mean its capacity is likely to be reduced for some time.

Magnox Electric, the division of British Nuclear Fuels which runs both Sizewell A and Dungeness A, has reviewed the situation and, taking into account the reprocessing situation, has put forward proposals for a change in de-fuelling strategy.


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It would mean both the Dungeness A reactors being defuelled ahead of those at Sizewell A. Both power stations have twin Magnox reactors.

De-fuelling is usually the first and biggest step in the decommissioning of a nuclear reactor. The fuel elements comprise the most radioactive part of the redundant reactors and their removal substantially reduces the risk - already considered remote - of an accident or terrorist strike leading to a release of radioactivity.

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Under proposals now being consideration, the Sizewell A fuel will stay in the reactors, rather than being transferred to the cooling pond - the first major stage in the defuelling operation.

Bob Kury , site director at Sizewell A, said the thinking behind the proposed new strategy was that Dungeness should take precedence because defuelling work there could proceed at a quicker pace.

He added that the new strategy, if approved, would not lead to the laying off of staff at Sizewell A, now numbering 432

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