Bradwell Site in Britain is a step closer to closure and full decommissioning, as work to remove the final remaining radioactive waste stream from the site has been completed, Magnox Ltd., said.
Over a seven-year span, "hundreds of thousands of litres of radioactive resins and sludge have now been successfully retrieved, conditioned and packaged" the company said. The project involves "removing the hazards left over from the earliest days of the UK’s nuclear industry," the release explained.
These intermediate level wastes were accumulated during the 40 years when Bradwell was safely generating low carbon electricity. The radioactive sludge was collected from the ponds which stored the site’s spent nuclear fuel during operation, while the resins were important for removing the radioactive content from site’s discharges – making sure they were kept within safe and permitted levels.
Once it had been retrieved, the waste was treated and packaged in innovative self-shielding ductile cast iron containers known as ‘yellow boxes’ making it suitable for interim storage in the site’s purpose-built facility.
Carl Harden, Magnox Project Manager, called the milestone "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 program will be to dismantle the operational plant itself," Harden said.
Bradwell is one of 17 civil nuclear sites in the UK owned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), and will reach a milestone for the nuclear industry when it becomes the first to enter a care and maintenance (C&M) phase.
During C&M the site is left in a safe condition while remaining radioactivity decays naturally. However, the site’s interim storage facility will still be receiving packaged waste from other Magnox sites in the south east for some time.
The site will be monitored, maintained and periodically inspected until final site clearance is started in about 80 years’ time. The last stage in a site’s lifecycle will see the removal of reactor vessels and building demolition.
This achievement, which was announced in mid-July, follows a significant 12 months of decommissioning progress at the site, which also saw the completion of fuel element debris dissolution in June 2017 and the reclassification of some of this intermediate level waste as low level waste, enabling it to be sent to the UK’s Low Level Waste Repository, in Cumbria, for disposal.
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