The Ecologist published some photos of the highly dilapidated state of cooling ponds B29 and B30. Some of the national daily papers picked up on these continuing problem with the state of the legacy waste being held at the Sellafield site. Nuclear safety expert John Large called it a ‘significant risk’ and expert in radiological risk Gordon Thompson (USA) told the Guardian: “The site’s overall radiological risk has never been properly assessed by the responsible authorities. [The] photos, showing disgracefully degraded open-air ponds at Sellafield, indicate that a thorough assessment of risk is overdue.”
The Government has launched a new long-term plan to deal permanently with the country’s radioactive waste. It follows a consultation on the process of finding a site to host a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF).
The plan will scrap the formal community veto which allows local politicians to block a future £12bn nuclear waste repository. It follows the decision by Cumbria County Council to reject a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) last year. The old policy required a strategic authority such as a county council as well as the local council to approve a project. The new policy simply requires what officials called a positive “test of community support” for the project to go ahead. Councils joining the site investigation process will receive £1m per year for up to five years in compensation to explore the idea further, rising to £2.5m per year as the design and planning phase begins, then rising substantially when building starts.
DECC has announced they are to begin “geological screening” of the country to find rocks that might hold nuclear waste safely for tens of thousands of years.
Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment have published a new briefing on the proposed nuclear power station at Moorside adjacent to Sellafield. The date for a final investment decision has now slipped from around 2015 to the end of 2018. Over the next four years NuGen plans to undertake a range of preparatory works, preliminary studies for site layouts, stakeholder engagement etc. Full development of the site, projected ‘to create between 14,000 and 21000 UK jobs’ would see 3.4GW generated by three Westinghouse AP 1000 reactors – with Toshiba claiming that each of the reactors ‘will take approximately 4 years to build’, that the first reactor is ‘targeted for operation in 2024’ and that operation of all three new reactors would be ‘delivered by 2026’. These overly ambitious claims, as with the employment numbers, appear somewhat implausible. In welcoming this week’s announcement, the West Cumbrian pro-nuclear lobby has clearly taken no account of the many major hurdles facing the project such as the progress of the Regulators’ Generic Design Assessment (GDA) of the Westinghouse AP1000. With only Stage 1 of the complex assessment process completed, further delays to the process are likely as evident from the Regulators’ latest Progress Report (January – March 2014) which points to 51 ‘technically challenging’ issues still to be resolved and that ‘we expect the completion of GDA for the AP1000 reactor design to take a number of years’. Other issues likely to delay the project include connecting the reactors to the electricity Grid and the choice of cooling water source for the new reactors.
Plans to build Europe’s largest new nuclear project have taken a step forward after Toshiba and GDF Suez signed a deal to develop the the Moorside site, next to Sellafield. The Japanese engineering giant will take a 60% stake in Nugen, the joint venture set up to develop the plant, with the French energy company taking a 40% stake. The plan is to build three AP1000 reactors at Moorside. Final investment decisions should be made in about four years, Nugen said. “The Moorside new nuclear project will bring at least £10bn of investment and is expected to create up to 21,000 jobs, while also providing a reliable source of low carbon energy for over six million homes,” said Energy Minister Michael Fallon. “This announcement is a significant step towards new reactors likely to come online in 2024 and shows how attractive the UK is for investors.”
The Sellafield Workers’ Campaign is stepping up efforts to back nuclear new build. It is hosting an ‘industry day’ at Energus, Lillyhall, Workington, on Friday to focus attention on the need to press ahead with three reactors at Moorside near Sellafield. The NuGen consortium has an option to build there. The project could bring £10bn of investment and create up to 21,000 jobs over the construction period and 1,000 permanent jobs once operational. Steve Nicholson, communications officer for the campaign, said: “Our industry day will focus on the need for government and industry at all levels to press ahead with the proposal by NuGen.”