Varrie Blowers, Secretary of BANNG, reports on the June meeting of the Bradwell Local Communities Liaison Council (LCLC)
A band of BANNG representatives, including myself, attended the June meeting of the LCLC at Mundon. The LCLC looks at what is happening at the Bradwell A site with regard to decommissioning and the future of the site. The big issues discussed were: the entry of the site into Care & Maintenance (C&M); the long-term presence on site of the Intermediate-Level waste (ILW) store and of the highly radioactive graphite reactor cores.
Will the site really be in passive C&M or continue to be an active nuclear site?
Decommissioning seems to be going well (costs, of course, so far unknown) and it is planned that the site will enter its C&M stage in October. ‘Decommissioned’ means the end of operations and the physical removal of plant, although some remains in a passive condition. ‘C&M’ means that the site is assumed to have been decommissioned and is in a passive state, being monitored and maintained as necessary.
It was questioned how the site could really be said to be in C&M when it would still have activities ongoing. The ILW store would require to be opened from time to time to accept deliveries of the 164 ILW casks still to come from Dungeness and Sizewell (making Bradwell a regional nuclear waste store); and the highly radioactive reactor cores would continue to remain on site for the long-term. This prompted questions: were the plans to monitor the site remotely from Sizewell during the C&M stage appropriate?; what about the effects of public spending restraints on site security?; would cuts to police numbers affect the ability of Essex Police to respond to any incident at the site?
The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) tried to reassure the meeting that the site will not be permitted to enter C&M until the agency is satisfied with the safety case and it was known that Magnox and the police would be able to respond to events. It was hoped to move the wastes to the national repository within 65-85 years. Andy Blowers pointed out that a repository does not yet exist, no-one knows when it will exist – or if it will exist at all. In any event, it is unlikely that wastes from Bradwell A will be high in the queue when Sellafield has first call on the repository.
How long will the highly radioactive reactor cores remain on-site?
The future of the reactor cores is of concern to BANNG. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) is considering accelerated removal from some Magnox sites of ‘assets’ such as reactor cores (Andy Blowers suggested these were not ‘assets’ but ‘liabilities’). But not at Bradwell. He pointed out that there had been an accelerated process for entry into C&M, but not for clearance of wastes. The longer the reactor cores were left, the more they would deteriorate. They would become a burden for future generations to deal with.
The NDA explained that different sites were ageing at different rates and that the reactor cores at Bradwell could last for 85 years before requiring attention. But, once again, it seemed that it was financial restraints and the need to defer costs that were wagging the policy tail.
Bradwell A – a burden on this and future generations
On the question of the future of the LCLC, the Deputy Leader of Maldon District Council, Councillor Adrian Fluker, said that as there were still concerns over security, no decision should be made until June, 2019. The Leader of the Opposition at Maldon District Council, Councillor Brian Beale, wanted ‘massive’ liaison to take place between this LCLC and stakeholder groups at sites that were yet to decommission. They needed to be made aware that what had seemed to be long-established nuclear policy was liable to change, with impacts on local communities – the transfers of ILW to Bradwell being a case in point.
Councillor White, of Tendring District Council and Deputy Chair of the LCLC, quoted figures on the lifespan of a nuclear power station given at an event at a recent Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) meeting: 100-200 years. As BANNG has been saying, this means that the cladding- covered hulks of Bradwell A will continue to reflect Blackwater sunsets for a very long time to come. It could be said that ‘a nuclear power station is not just for life, it’s forever.’ And, of course, there could be a fleet of these gracing the north coast of the Dengie Peninsula for an even longer time if the Chinese-designed and -built Bradwell B goes ahead……with both spent fuel and ILW stores on site.
Councillor White said he had been taken aback by the estimated final cost of decommissioning the NDA’s 17 legacy sites, including Sellafield, at £119BN. He reflected that it was not just his generation but those of his children and grandchildren that would be picking up the bill for this.
Ah yes, when everything is taken into account – which it seldom is – nuclear power is an extremely long-term and extremely expensive business!