Several supporters of the Blackwater Against New Nuclear Group (BANNG) attended the recent meeting of the Bradwell Local Communities Liaison Committee (LCLC) – a meeting that reflected the ever-changing nature of nuclear industry decisions and its ability to keep on shocking.
Extension of fuel element debris (FED) discharges
Yes, extension! The BANNG cohort was astonished to learn that the discharges into the Blackwater estuary arising from the dissolution of fuel element debris (FED) at Bradwell would not cease at the end of 2015, as previously intended by Magnox, but would continue to ‘2017ish’. This revelation was made by the Site Manager when prompted by a question from BANNGer, Graham Farley, but was not included in the site report.
BANNG and the public had been of the impression that the discharges would end and the site move into its Care and Maintenance (C & M) stage at the end of this year. It had been reported that the dissolution process was being accelerated to enable this to happen. No reason was given at the LCLC meeting for slowing down a process that it had been intended to accelerate.
It is now not clear when the former, now closed, Bradwell power station will enter C & M. The Site Manager, Scott Raish, admitted he did not know when this would take place but that discussions were being held with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and that the public would be informed.
Later, in his report, the Environment Agency (EA) Inspector said that the Agency was working with Magnox on the acceleration of the site into C & M by the end of 2015. Did the regulator not know about the possible disruption to the C & M plans?
The EA Inspector also said that he was now satisfied with the remedial action that had been taken with regard to the leak within the dissolution abatement plant. He denied that Magnox had been fined by the Agency as reported in the Clacton Gazette.
It is unclear if this leak was the reason for the eight month suspension of dissolution of FED which Magnox maintains was always planned. The process ‘had not been operating to full design output and…. modifications, particularly to the abatement plant, had been undertaken to increase output going forward’ (Minutes of LCLC, 4 March, 2015, item A1b). BANNG has found no record of a ‘planned’ outage. As previously reported, Andy Blowers, Chair of BANNG, almost by accident, was informed last autumn by the CEO of the NDA that there were ‘challenges’ with the plant and that dissolution had stopped just after it had started.
Meanwhile BANNG is seeking a meeting with the Environment Agency to discuss the situation. Progress on the monitoring the EA promised to undertake and the discharges that will occur once the station is in C & M will also be on the Agenda.
BANNG will continue to press for the discharges to be stopped forthwith. It is clear the original timetable has been blown out of the water by a faulty plant and the opportunity should be seized to stop it altogether.
Subsequent to the meeting, Varrie Blowers said: ‘The industry seems to have forgotten the public anxiety that is being caused by these FED discharges’.
Transfer of Intermediate-Level Waste (ILW) from Sizewell and Dungeness to Bradwell
It was confirmed at the meeting that the preferred storage option for the South-East was for Bradwell to become a regional ILW store by taking 170 packages from Sizewell and Dungeness. Thus the policy of self-sufficiency has been ditched in favour of regional storage.
The original Planning Permission for the Bradwell ILW store comes with a restrictive condition: the store is for the temporary storage (i.e. until a national repository is available – which is unlikely to be any time soon) of ILW arising from the Bradwell decommissioning only. The Permission was given for a building of a size solely to take the material arising on the Bradwell site and specifically excluded transfer of wastes from other sites for storage.
A new Planning Application must be made to store ILW from other sites. But policy W5A of the waste plan excludes nuclear or radioactive waste disposal at Bradwell.
It seems a Planning Application in respect of this transfer of ILW will be lodged in the autumn and that talks have already begun with Essex County Council. The meeting was told that there would be public consultation. The Secretary of BANNG, Varrie Blowers, asked how this would be achieved and was told that drop-in sessions would most likely be held, as in the past, and formal consultation would also take place as is usual with Planning Applications.
It emerged that the Bradwell ILW takes up only 50% of the store and that even if ILW from the other sites is placed there, that will still leave 15 – 20% spare capacity. All that can be said about that at this moment is, ‘Watch this space’.
BANNG will clarify with Magnox and the NDA on how they intend to consult members of the public so that they may have the opportunity to respond to the new Planning Application. In the past, Essex County Council Planning Department indicated that it would put out to public consultation any application to amend the original Planning Permission for the ILW store as the issue was controversial. BANNG will be seeking assurance that this proposal still stands.
BANNG fears that the import of ILW from elsewhere may just be the thin end of the wedge and that the dissolution plant will not be shut down once Bradwell waste has been dissolved but may be used for imported FED. The Magnox/NDA consultation in 2014 made it clear that this is not the intention. Still that was in 2014. Once again, ‘Watch this space’.
Subsequent to the meeting, Varrie Blowers said: ‘It seems that plans can change at any time without warning or even explanation. If this weren’t so serious, it would be difficult to make it up. ’.