Decommissioning of UK research reactor approved

18 August 2015

Imperial College London has received approval from the UK nuclear regulator to decommission its 50-year-old CONSORT research reactor. Decommissioning work is expected to be completed by 2021.

CONSORT reactor - 250 (Imperial College)
The CONSORT reactor (Image: Imperial College)

The 100 kilowatt CONSORT reactor at Imperial College's Silwood Park Campus in Berkshire began operations in 1965 and was shut down in 2012 due to increasing costs and a lack of research, educational, training and commercial use. The reactor's fuel was successfully removed and transported to Sellafield for storage in July 2014, significantly reducing the safety hazard on site.

Imperial College applied to the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) in January 2015 to begin a decommissioning project that will involve the removal of all radiological and non-radiological waste and the demolition of the reactor centre to enable the site to be de-licensed.

The ONR yesterday announced that it had granted consent for the decommissioning of the reactor. This consent followed public consultation involving 27 organizations and assessment of Imperial College's environmental statement and supporting evidence.

ONR concluded that a comprehensive assessment of the project's likely environmental impact had been carried out and had demonstrated that "the predicted environmental benefits far outweigh the possible adverse environmental effects".

However, ONR attached conditions to the consent "to ensure mitigation measures are implemented to minimise the environmental impact of the project". This includes requiring Imperial College to prepare an annual environmental management plan updating on the project's progress and reporting on the effectiveness of the mitigation measures. The college must also notify the ONR in advance of any significant change to a mitigation measure.

Imperial College said, "Although CONSORT is a small, low-power research reactor, approximately 10,000 times smaller than a nuclear power station, the decommissioning process will still take over a decade to complete."

The college anticipates all of the reactor's physical structures being removed from the site by late 2019 and final site de-licensing in 2021. The site will then be "suitable for any purpose the college considers best supports its academic mission".

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News