The former Bradwell nuclear site in Essex is entering into the next phase of decommissioning as it hit a milestone to remove the last of its radioactive waste.
After seven years, the work to retrieve, condition and package “hundreds of thousands” of litres of radioactive resin and sludge has concluded, paving the way for the plant to be dismantled.
The intermediate level wastes were accumulated during the 40 years when Bradwell was operational.
The radioactive sludge was collected from the ponds which stored the site’s spent nuclear fuel during operation, while the resin was important for removing the radioactive content from the site’s discharges, making sure they were kept within safe and permitted levels.
Once retrieved, the waste has been treated and packaged in “innovative” self-shielding ductile cast iron containers known as ‘’yellow boxes’’, suitable for interim storage in a purpose-built facility on site.
Magnox project manager Carl Harden said: “Completing this work is absolutely critical to getting the site into care and maintenance. Our independent nuclear regulators need to be completely reassured that there’s no more waste left on the site which needs to be treated.”
The next step in the decommissioning programme will now be to dismantle the operational plant itself.
Bradwell is one of 17 civil nuclear sites in the UK owned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), and will become the first to enter a ‘care and maintenance’ (C&M) phase.
During this phase the NDA said the site would be left in a safe condition while remaining radioactivity decayed naturally.
However, it said the site’s interim storage facility would still receive packaged waste from other Magnox sites in the south east for some time.
NDA said the site would be monitored, maintained and periodically inspected until final site clearance starts in about 80 years’ time.
The last stage in a site’s lifecycle will see the removal of reactor vessels and building demolition.
Bradwell closure director Bob Nichols added: “This is a fantastic achievement for the site, for the whole of Magnox and for the NDA. The work hasn’t been without its challenges, but the lessons we’ve learned will be extremely valuable for the other nuclear sites which follow Bradwell into C&M.
“We are now focused on the last few steps to get Bradwell into C&M, completing weatherproofing work on the reactor buildings and removing the remaining ancillary buildings on site. Closing Bradwell during this calendar year is firmly in our sights.”
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