Harwell nuclear site released for new use

A large part of the Harwell site has now been formally released from the last remaining nuclear regulations, and is available for new development.

The final stage of a clean-up process that has taken several decades was ratified by Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Baroness Verma, who signed orders to revoke the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s (NDA) responsibility for the 27 hectares of land. The land will now be released to the partnership that is developing the wider Harwell Oxford campus.

Representing about 20% of the total site, the land, around the size of 40 football pitches, will now be transferred to the wider Harwell Oxford campus that houses a range of high-tech businesses and research organisations.

The parliamentary ‘de-designation’ signifies that the nuclear decommissioning mission is complete, and follows the gradual de-licensing of the land in three separate tranches over the previous six years. Removal of the nuclear licence, which lays down strict conditions about land use and activities, must be approved by the HSE’s Office for Nuclear Regulation.

NDA Property Manager Tony Smithers said: “It is a major achievement to clean up this land so that it can be returned to the commercial market and congratulations must go to Research Sites Restoration Ltd, who operate the site and have driven the decommissioning work forward.”

RSRL Managing Director Tony Wratten said: “Delicensing and de-designation demonstrates that our work is done on this part of the site. The land can now be re-used without any concern about its previous history. This is a real achievement for RSRL and the culmination of many years of hard work. I am grateful to everyone involved in realising this significant milestone.”

The land covers the eastern part of the site, where clean-up work started in the 1990s with the decommissioning and demolition of redundant facilities, the management of radioactive waste and ground restoration.

Site operator RSRL Ltd also had to carry out extensive surveying and sampling works to demonstrate that radioactive and non-radioactive contamination of the land had been addressed.

Harwell was originally a wartime RAF station and become the UK’s first nuclear research centre in 1946. Five experimental reactors were built in the following decades including Europe’s first, known as GLEEP, along with a series of research facilities.

The site is part of the 700-acre Harwell Oxford Campus, a world-leading organisation for science technology and business, which houses more than 150 organisations and employs 4,500 people.

Last year, large tracts of NDA land at Oldbury and Berkeley sites, totalling 46 hectares, were de-designated, paving the way for re-use.