Decommissioning Wylfa, Anglesey Nuclear Clean Up
The process of decommissioning Wylfa is a major undertaking and will last over a hundred years from the end of power generation in 2010 to release of the location from its Nuclear Site Licence in 2125.
Against a backdrop of the twin concerns over climate change and energy security, as the old generation of nuclear power stations such as the Magnox reactor at Wylfa on Anglesey are decommissioned, a new nuclear build programme is about to start in Britain.
While there is much focus on driving forward with ambitious plans for a new Wylfa B on the island, here we look at how the legacy of Wylfa A will be handled.
We need to consider the impact of this long process on the local economy and stakeholders, in terms of jobs, training and opportunities for the supply chain.
The Wylfa Lifetime Plan sets out the range and timetable of activities required at the site owned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) for the remainder of the plant’s life.
This process at the Anglesey site is just a cog in a large wheel, the Magnox Operating Programme, which drives the whole cycle from initial fuel fabrication to final reprocessing for all the Magnox sites.
Through control of the discharges from reprocessing, this programme plays a key role in helping to ensure the UK meets its international obligations on protecting the marine environment of the north east Atlantic under the OSPAR treaty.
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The strategy for decommissioning Wylfa sees generating capacity ending at the end of 2010, though a business case had been made to the Government by the NDA to keep generation going on Anglesey for up to a further 2-3 years, assuming all safety considerations could be completely satisfied.
This was seen as advantageous given the concerns about maintaining an electricity supply to the former local aluminium smelter near Holyhead as well boosting baseload generating capacity given the potential looming energy gap in the UK.
When electricity generation finally ceases at Wylfa, the process of defuelling starts, and estimated to last around 12 months up to 2012, involves removing the remaining fuel from the reactors and sending it to Sellafield for reprocessing.
As removal of fuel off site continues, preparations will be made for the Care and Maintenance phase which is due to last from 2012 to 2025. This will include dismantling and demolishing buildings to remove radioactive plant and buildings.
Meanwhile the reactor area and reactors themselves, along with intermediate level waste storage (ILW) will be made safe and secure.
The next stage in decommissioning Wylfa will be actual Care and Maintenance, to cover the best part of 90 years to 2016. This long period will see relatively little onsite activity, with a notable fall in numbers of people working on location.
Very little demolition work will be done at this time, with most of the focus on monitoring for radiological activity to ensure progress is made towards permanent and secure remediation of the environment.
At around 2116 care and maintenance will end and any remaining buildings will be removed and the site returned as close as possible to its original state. Any residual waste will be disposed off site and final landscaping carried out.
This is the point in the process of decommissioning Wylfa that the location will finally be released from the Nuclear Site Licence, around 155 years after it started generating electricity for distribution onto the national grid.
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