Magnox Ltd. said it was employing divers to clean up the former cooling ponds at the Dungeness A site in Britain, which was a first for the nuclear power industry.
“Bringing with it a host of safety and environmental benefits, the work will see the pond skips that were one used to store used nuclear fuel cut up and packaged for disposal with the water that remains in the ponds acting as additional radiation protection for the divers,” Magnox explained.
Magnox noted that the alternative of cutting skips after then had been removed from the ponds would require additional measures to prevent airborne contamination.
During electricity generation, the ponds were used to store used nuclear fuel in skips before the fuel was sent off site for reprocessing. The site, however, has been fuel free for over four years, although the skips, which are classified as intermediate level waste, remain in the cooling ponds in need of disposal.
"The use of divers was a change in our way of working. We have successfully shown through trials that this work can be carried out safely and we can now make good progress in the clean-up of the cooling ponds,” said Dungeness A Site Closure Director, Paul Wilkinson.
The skips will be cut up, then stored in approved waste containers in a shielded storage area on site before they ae packaged for interim storage.
During the work an additional 20 metric tons of pond furniture, including framework and machinery, classed as low level waste will be removed and cut up before being disposed of at the Low Level Waste Repository in West Cumbria.
The learning from the work at Dungeness A Site, expected to be completed in early 2017, will be passed on to other Magnox sites where similar work will be carried out, with Sizewell A Site being the next destination, said Magnox, a company owned by Cavendish Fluor Partnership.
The Dungeness A site included two 225 MWe Magnox reactors that operated form 1965 to 2006, according to the World Nuclear Association. The last of the fuel was removed in June 2012.
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