This article  is not about Sizewell C, but it gives a good insight into how UK nuclear waste is being dealt with - or not!

Huge pools of mystery sludge, leaking silos and risk of explosions: Sellafield needs help, but the UK government has just sacked the firm running the clean-up

URGENT clean-up of two of the world's most dangerous radioactive waste stores will be delayed by at least five years, despite growing safety fears.

The waste is stored at the UK's Sellafield nuclear reprocessing site, which holds radioactive waste dating back to the dawn of the nuclear age. An accident at the derelict site could release radioactive materials into the air over the UK and beyond.

Last week, the UK government sacked the private consortium running the £80-billion-programme to clean up Sellafield, and gave the job back to its own agency, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA). The clean-up operation, scheduled to end by 2120, costs the government £1.9 billion a year.

The private consortium, Nuclear Management Partners, was meant to "bring in world-class expertise" and allow the government to "get to grips with the legacy after decades of inaction", according to a 2008 statement by Mike O'Brien, energy minister at the time. But six years on, the privatisation experiment has been abandoned.

The surprise renationalisation comes after delays at two of the four waste stores prioritised for clean-up. The four ponds and silos contain hundreds of tonnes of highly radioactive material from more than 60 years of operations. The decaying structures are cracking, leaking waste into the soil, and are at risk of explosions from gases created by corrosion.

In an NDA business plan published last April, the emptying of the 100-metre Pile fuel storage pond, which holds used fuel and waste from the manufacture of the first UK nuclear bombs in the 1950s and 60s, was planned to be completed by 2025. But a timeline in a new draft plan circulated for consultation in December shows the job won't be done until 2030. Likewise, the £750-million task of emptying the 21-metre-high Pile fuel cladding silo, which has been full since 1964, is now scheduled for completion in 2029, not 2024.

Confirming the change, an NDA spokesman told New Scientist: "Given the unique technical challenges and complexities of these plants, which were built with no thought to how they would be decommissioned... there will continue to be programme uncertainties."

Sellafield was built on Cumbria's coast in north-west England in the late 1940s to manufacture plutonium for the UK atomic bomb. The site also housed the world's first commercial nuclear power station, and became a centre for storing highly radioactive waste from reactors.

Most of the highly radioactive waste was dumped into ponds, each several times the size of an Olympic pool. Constantly circulating water kept the waste cool, but also created hundreds of cubic metres of sludge from the corrosion of the metal cladding surrounding the fuel rods.

As a result, the exact contents of the ponds are unclear, says Paul Howarth, managing director of the government-owned National Nuclear Laboratory at Sellafield. "We have to do a lot of R&D just to characterise the inventory, before we can work out how to retrieve the materials."

And the problem is just going to get worse. When plants are decommissioned in the future, waste will still be sent to Sellafield. The UK's plants are mostly made of concrete, rather than steel, which makes them harder to dismantle, says Timothy Abram at the University of Manchester. It also means they create about 30 times more radioactive material. And with a new nuclear plant about to be built at Hinkley Point in Somerset, the amount of radioactive waste headed for Sellafield may grow.

Another unique legacy is the 90,000 tonnes of radioactive graphite stored there, used as fuel cladding. Irradiated graphite accumulates energy known as Wigner energy, which caused the UK's worst nuclear accident in 1957. Researchers are still unsure how to make it safe for disposal.

While other Western nations have policies for dismantling old nuclear plants as soon as they can, the UK plans to mothball them for a century or more first. Nobody wants more radioactive waste until they have cleaned up what is already there.

Danger areas

Pile 1 is one of the two original reactors built to support the UK atomic bomb project. It is where the country's worst nuclear accident took place, when the reactor core caught fire in 1957. Once the fire was extinguished the core was sealed and it is considered best left alone for now.

Pile fuel storage pond took in spent fuel from both the weapons reactors and energy reactors. The radioactive waste and sludge formed from the storage process sit in a deteriorating concrete structure filled with water. Removal of the sludge is under way. This pond has sat unused since the 1970s.

Pile fuel cladding silo is jammed with 3200 cubic metres of aluminium cladding, which surrounds the fuel rods, much of it from 1950s weapons reactors. It has been sealed since the mid-1960s but corrosion means there is a risk that hydrogen will form, which could lead to explosions.

Magnox spent fuel storage pond is considered the most dangerous industrial building in Europe. The 150-metre-long open-air pond is visited by birds and cracks have caused radioactive material to leak into the soil. No one knows exactly what's in there, but it may contain a tonne of plutonium.

Magnox swarf storage silo is considered the second most dangerous industrial building in Europe. It stores waste magnesium fuel cladding under water. Some sludge has leaked through cracks in the concrete, and there is a risk of explosion from hydrogen released by corrosion of storage vessels.

 

Together Against Sizewell C (TASC) joins the debate on the review of nuclear emergency planning

TASC - the coalition of anti- and pro-nuclear groups fighting to stop the development of Sizewell C -  fed up with the constant delay over the review of the emergency planning issue around Sizewell, today distributed over 4000 flyers throughout Leiston and Saxmundham warning residents of the potential grave danger posed by Sizewell B and the future proposed development of two more reactors at Sizewell C.

The flyer argues that the current review of the 'detailed emergency evacuation zone (DEPZ) is in utter confusion.  The possible reduction from 2.4kms to 1km for the pre-distribution of potassium iodate tablets (stable iodine) is insulting to people in the wider East Suffolk area, as is the  suggestion that people outside the area “stay indoors and listen to local radio and TV for updates”  

It points out that, after the Fukushima disaster, the Japanese authorities imposed an exclusion zone of 20kms and that the USA required its own nationals to observe a self-imposed 80kms no-go area around the stricken plant.  The lessons learned exercise in which the UK nuclear industry participated in the wake of the event appears not to have stretched to taking on board the need to prepare people who live far away from the plant as well as those who live close by. In addition, it has been a source of concern to TASC that the new dry spent fuel store under construction at Sizewell B represents a terrorist  target and that the consequences of an attack on the store and the resulting radioactive contamination appear not to have been taken into account in the current review process.  TASC flyer also informs people that a notional Sizewell C will be three times as powerful as the Fukushima plant, making the potential consequences that much greater. 

Pete Wilkinson, Acting Chairman of TASC, said today, 'It is time we took the lid off this debate and told people exactly how the authorities are gambling with their lives, their livelihoods, their jobs, their homes and farmland.  According to the authoritative Max Planck Gesellschaft, nuclear accidents of a severe nature are likely to occur once every 10 - 20 years  (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120522134942.htm)  

yet our authorities seem hell-bent on keeping the evacuation zone at a ridiculously small radius - only 23 individuals would be affected by a 1km radius evacuation zone at Sizewell -  so as not to frighten the second homers, tourists and business investments in the area.  It is our view that we all have a right to know the truth and that the authorities have a duty to provide unbiased and accurate information to a wide constituency of people. If the proposed 1km evacuation zone is agreed, it will not be with the consent of residents, nor with the agreement of experts outside the industry, because they are excluded from the discussions” 

The Government, the nuclear industry, the ONR, the county and district councils may do well to think again about the safety and well being of the residents of Suffolk . We should not ignore the perils of a nuclear accident. Plans  will be imposed on us by those who have a vested interest and those who pretend that nuclear accidents can not happen in the UK, despite the evidence to the contrary. We certainly hope it never happens, but not to prepare for it could be catastrophic and by increasing the density of population in East Suffolk may  cause even greater difficulty for any evacuation.

 The Councillors responsible for Planning at County and District when making decisions which increase the population, need to be aware of the possibility of having to safely evacuate  all residents, if they do not they  are acting recklessly and irresponsibly and should reconsider their position

For further information contact:

Pete Wilkinson (Chair of TASC) on  01728 660232  mb 07940524831

Joan Girling 01728 830965

 

 

The subject of the Sizewell B Emergency Plans were presented to the Sizewell Stakeholders Group on June 5th by Andy Osman Suffolk County Councilor and Gavin Smith from the Office for Nuclear Regulation. The Plans were met with incredulity. The Emergency Evacuation Zone is to be 1 kilometre (0.6 of a mile), a reduction from the current 2.4 km. The 23 people in the zone are to be told to either shelter/ evacuate and are to be given potassium Iodate tablets on a yearly basis to keep at hand if there is an emergency.

This is after being told just a week or two ago that the area to be covered would be according to Post Codes which would include Leiston but exclude Theberton and Eastbridge, Thorpeness and several other small villages.

UPDATE 19/06:

TASC has received a long email from the Andy Osman from Suffolk County Council in which he said

"Regrettably a number of people at the SSG meeting helped to confuse the message that we were trying to get across with regards to changes to emergency plans. I have asked the SSG Chair if I can come back to a sub group, along with EDF, ONR, Public Health England and DECC, to continue the process of explaining in detail the changes."

The changes to the plan have been made because the risk area for reasonably foreseeable emergencies which was calculated for sizewell A when in operation was set at 2.4kms. The ONR announcement in April confirmed that the risk had now reduced at the A site, due to decommissioning, and the B power station risk is now the driver for considering urgent countermeasures. This risk now extends no further than 1km.

For anyone with the time and tenacity to plough through it, the Sizewell Off Site Emergency Plan is published on the Suffolk resilience website : SRF Sizewell Off Site Emergency Plan
It contains the following:

6. Planning Assumptions for Emergency Arrangements.
REPPIR requires that an Off Site Emergency Plan is prepared to provide detailed emergency arrangements to secure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the restriction of exposure to ionising radiation and the health and safety of persons who may be affected by such reasonably foreseeable emergencies. Such a plan is based upon emergency planning zones that cover the area that in the opinion of the Executive any member of the public is likely to be affected by such radiation emergencies, this is called the DEPZ. This plan uses a tiered approach based upon hazard assessments to guide where emergency arrangements should be planned and to what degree. The resultant planning assumptions are as follows:

6.1. Reasonably Foreseeable. The Sizewell B Power Station Report of Assessment indicates that radiation from a reasonably foreseeable accident may require countermeasures to protect the public to be applied with minimal warning as follows:
• Evacuation - out to 200m
• Shelter - out to 1km
• Stable Iodine - out to 1km.
• Food monitoring out to 35km.

[then later:]

6.2 Beyond Design Basis/Reasonable Worst Case. The HSE document Outline Emergency Planning for Licensed Nuclear Power Stations indicates that in a hypothetical extended release scenario, countermeasures to protect the public may need to be applied within 10-12 hours of an emergency.
• Extended Evacuation - out to 4km
• Extended Shelter - out to 15km (shelter and stable iodine are
implemented together)
• Extended Stable Iodine - out to 15km.
The Suffolk Resilience Forum has agreed to introduce an EEPZ out to 15km based upon the Sizewell B power station.
Countermeasures within the EEPZ will be pre-planned but not deployed and public within this area will be able to access information on planned arrangements
 

News from the East Anglian Daily Times 30/01/14

A community group fears a big increase in traffic and a large influx of workers could turn a small country parish into an “industrial city” if the Sizewell C nuclear power project goes ahead.

The Theberton and Eastbridge Action Group was formed last year after proposals were put forward for a workers’ hostel in the parish and the use of the existing B1122 road by construction traffic.

The group’s aims – to reduce the impact on the community if the project does go ahead – have now been given overwhelming support by nearly 70 local people who attended a public meeting.

A report produced by the group says: “The combined effect of a massive increase in traffic, and the huge influx of workers, is out of scale with the area. A small country parish will be turned into an industrial city.”

Concerns highlighted include the impact on the environment, including noise and light pollution, and the risk of flooding and coastal instability endangering the power station.

However, the biggest worries include the possible siting of a 3,000-bed workers’ hostel amidst fears it would “swamp the tiny village of Eastbridge and completely overwhelm the local infrastructure”.

The group believes the B1122 is “unfit for purpose” in terms of Sizewell C traffic and it wants serious consideration given to proposals – first examined at the Sizewell B inquiry 30 years ago – for a new cross-country road from the nuclear site to the A12.

Local parishes are concerned that a year after EDF Energy’s Stage 1 public consultation no estimates for road, rail and sea traffic have been published.

Su Swallow, who co-chaired the meeting, said: “Underlying all our concerns is the fact that, a year after Stage 1 Consultation, too many questions remain unanswered by EDF and as long as that remains the case, it is not possible to formulate informed responses and thereby try to influence the planning of this major project.”

Suffolk County Council is currently undertaking a “desk-top” study of ideas which include a new cross-country road route. The study will subsequently be used in talks with EDF Energy.

An EDF Energy spokesman said the company was working closely with the county council which was aware of the process involved in assessing the transport impact.

This is a lengthy process which involves consideration of the responses to Stage 1 consultation, careful examination of the capacity of sea and rail transport and development of the project proposals. Residents and local community groups indicated that they would like to see more details at the next stage of formal consultation and that is what we are working on to provide,” it said.

The company says it hopes to launch its Stage 2 public consultation “later this year”.

 

David Cameron and Vincent de Rivas (boss of EDF) have both claimed recently that 25,000 jobs will be created at Hinkley, and the same figures have been bandied about for Sizewell C. Talk of This number of jobs is highly misleading as the figures are calculated on jobs of 1 year duration only, so if everyone works for 2 years, the number becomes 12,500 jobs and so on. A recent edition of nuclear issues, a news sheet sent out by SONE (Supporters Of Nuclear Energy) highlighted concerns that jobs would not be taken by UK businesses. An extract is copied below:

Even more depressing

According to EDF it seems that the UK, has now lost its opportunity to contribute to the nuclear expansion which is now on course, not only in the UK, but in many other countries. In an article in the Guardian (15 Oct) the Commercial Director for nuclear new build at EDF Energy asserts that “most of the available contracts could be beyond UK suppliers, which are struggling to meet the complex safety and quality standards of the nuclear industry.” For EDF all we seem capable for is the civil works – “muck shifting”.

Reports from the Royal Academy of Engineering have established that, with the experience gained follow-on replica stations are cheaper than first of a kind, and also, (and this is the point emphasised by EDF), that “Subcontractors should be of high quality and experienced in nuclear construction, or taught the necessary special skills and requirements for quality, traceability and documentation.” Obviously if British subcontractors are excluded from Hinkley C contracts they will never have the opportunity to acquire these capabilities. The Government should surely insist, as part of the generous strike price subsidy, that British companies be given a share in Hinkley C to enable them to build up these skills so that they can then bid for further nuclear contracts in this country and also overseas. Otherwise the only nuclear expertise British industry can claim will be in the shutting down and decommissioning of nuclear stations.”

link to original article: www.sone.org.uk/2013-nuclear-issues-vol-36-10/