Work starts on first British dry fuel store

18 January 2013

A two-year construction project to build a dry storage facility for used fuel from EDF Energy's Sizewell B power station got under way this week. The facility will be used from 2015, when the plant's storage pond is due to reach capacity.

Sizewell B is the UK's only pressurized water reactor, and has been operating since 1995. Unlike fuel from the UK's Magnox and Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor (AGR) fleets, all of Sizewell B's used fuel has remained stored under water in an on-site fuel storage pond. The new dry fuel store will provide capacity for the unit's used fuel from 2015 for the lifetime of the power station or until a deep geological disposal facility is available.

Conditional planning permission for the facility was granted in July 2011. The store received the final go-ahead in September 2012 after plant owner and operator EDF Energy satisfied the local planning authority, the Suffolk Coastal District Council Planning Committee, about the steps it had taken to meet those conditions.

As part of the process of responding to the planning conditions, EDF surveys found previously unidentified buried concrete waste dating back to the construction of both Sizewell B and the now-closed Sizewell A Magnox station, with the result that more material will need to be removed from the site during preparations for the store than originally anticipated. In order to minimise the extra amount of daily traffic flow to and from the site that this will entail, EDF Energy decided to extend the construction period from 12 months to 24 months. As part of the program, the company is also spending nearly £200,000 ($319,000) on local road improvements.

Although dry stores for spent fuel are in use in many locations around the world, the Sizewell B store will be the first such facility in the UK. Used fuel from the country's Magnox plants, all but one of which have now ceased operation, has been reprocessed in a dedicated facility at the Sellafield site. The Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (Thorp), also at Sellafield, treats used fuel from the country's AGRs as well as light water reactor fuels from overseas customers but is due to cease operations in 2018 when outstanding reprocessing contracts have been completed.

Sizewell B is currently expected to cease operating in 2035, although similar plants in the USA have been permitted to operate for 60-year lives. Although used fuel from Sizewell B has never been reprocessed, the UK's youngest operating nuclear power station has operated using fuel containing reprocessed uranium.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News