Almost half of the Oldbury nuclear power plant site has been declared free of the need for nuclear regulation. At the same time, Oldbury 1 has been granted approval to generate electricity until 2012 – an 18 month extension on earlier plans.
Following extensive grounds and building testing carried out by the plant operator, 32 hectares of the site have been delicensed by the UK Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and the land is now in a condition fit for any kind of re-use because it contains no radiation hazard. This land includes a popular nature trail and a historic visitor centre. Thirty nine hectares remain under license, including of course the site's two operating 217 MWe Magnox reactors and essential plant infrastructure.
The delicensed area is the largest ever at a UK nuclear site to change status in one go. Project manager Matt Thames noted, "The project involved a great deal of hard work both by the site and specialist contractors brought in to deliver independent monitoring, and it is a major industry achievement that the work was delivered in such an efficient manner."
The freeing up of the land is seen as a key step towards eventual decommissioning and plans for site re-use, although the plant, which produced its first power in 1967, will not be closing any time soon. Originally scheduled to close in 2008, it has had its operation extended on two occasions. It was due to be shut by the end of June this year but a final extension, announced today, could see unit 1 generate until the end of 2012 allowing it to use up all the remaining fuel. Unit 2 will cease generation on 30 June, in line with the earlier plan.
The plant had been preparing for the extension for some time, including conducting an evaluation of the Periodic Safety Review – the key document used by the ONR to determine plant safety. The extension is seen as 'good news' by the plants owner, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, as the profits the extra generation raise will be used to help fund other UK clean-up projects.
Commenting on the decision, Oldbury site director Phil Sprague said: "As a result of excellent operation and maintenance by our experienced staff the plant and equipment are in very good condition... We are pleased that this work has been successful and that we will continue to contribute to the country's electricity supply as we have done for the last 43 years."
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News