Construction of waste plant to begin

Magnox is investing in mobile decommissioning equipment that can be moved around to tackle the waste legacy at a number of its sites.
A multi-million pound contract has been awarded to Costain to develop a plant that treats and dissolves radioactive waste, massively reducing the amount that needs to be disposed.

The process will target fuel element debris, or FED, which is made up of metal components removed from the casing of fuel elements after use and, in terms of volume, represents the largest radioactive waste-stream after the fuel itself. Dissolving the FED in acid reduces the volume by 97%, leaving much smaller quantities for packaging, longterm storage and disposal. The process has been pioneered over 10 years at Dungeness and now has the potential to shave around £100 million from the cost of cleaning up the Magnox sites.

FED Programme Director Steve Walters said: “Our intention is to create as much of the plant as possible using separate modules that can be used across our sites, recognising that we’ll need some customisable retrieval equipment to tackle different vault designs. This has the potential to save significant amounts of money, but will also mean our specialist team will develop a thorough understanding of how it all works – generating substantial implementation and process savings.”

Designs for the plant are due to be signed off later this year, ahead of operations commencing at Bradwell in 2012. Hinkley Point A, Sizewell A and Oldbury are planned to follow and treat their FED, which was originally expected to remain on site until it could be moved to the deep Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) when it becomes available.

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