Friday, 23 June 2017

FED is DEAD... Renewables give new life...

  • Fuel Element Debris (FED) Dissolution ended 17th June 2017
  • Government fined £100 million - Taxpayers foot bill

  • Of course, the headline reflects the relief that the process of FED Dissolution at Bradwell has finished yet also effectively leaves a bitter ‘taste’ of potentially radioactive sludge in the Blackwater estuary. This was just one of the significant items of news from the latest Local Community Liaison Committee (LCLC) meetings held Wednesday 21st June 2017 attended by members of BANNG, West Mersea Town Councillors, representatives from other local councils and, notably, Cllr Paul Smith, leader of Colchester Borough Council.

    Historically the LCLC meetings have always been relatively inconclusive with an apparent defensive response from questions raised by attendees. This time the atmosphere was tangibly different, presentations celebrated progress made rather than delivered with an air of concealment and, significantly, questions raised from the floor were answered with a clarity and detail that hitherto had been absent.

    After the usual opening formalities new site closure director Bob Nichols (Bob) was introduced and he proceeded to deliver his report. Within this the news on FED was made and it was clear that there is a palpable sense of relief that all FED has now left the site. A total of 1000 batches of FED waste were processed through the dissolution plant, 140 tonnes were classified as Low Level Waste (LLW) and sent to Drigg whilst 65 tonnes were classified as Intermediate Level Waste (ILW).

    Additionally, other concerns raised in the December 2016 LCLC about site security once in Care & Maintenance (C&M) were also allayed along with one of my specific requests to carry out a ‘dry run’ of the movement of Intermediate Level Waste (ILW) containers from Southminster to the ILW store. To date 134 Bradwell ILW packages have been completed out of an expected final total of 146 Bradwell packages to go into the store. The inbound shipments from Dungeness and Sizewell are expected to start arriving in September of 2 shipments per month of 3 containers each.

    With the Bradwell site decommissioning progress the phrase “Lead and Learn” was quoted a few times as, essentially, work at Bradwell leads the way and this information will be shared to aid the work on the other 11 Magnox sites. Technically the whole site has been sub-divided into 20 areas including sections such as earth mounds outside the current perimeter fence (Area 9) where some contamination was found from a pre 2002 leak from a drain. Utilising this zoning process will result in the development of a knowledge base that will be held for future technicians to consult when the final dismantling takes place around the year 2100. Does my daisy look big in this?!!

    With the substantial progress made Reactor 1 will be C&M ready by October this year and, subject to Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) inspection, fully in C&M by 2018 with Reactor 2 following 6-9 months later. 62 buildings have been removed since April 2016 and large quantities of asbestos disposed of from the reactor buildings. The issue of the type of cladding was tackled within Bob’s report and has the highest fire resistance rating making it clearly different from the type used around Grenfell Tower.

     Bob suggested that, in his unofficial view, security guards should be employed but, as yet, that is not confirmed, He did confirm there will be some staff (I hesitat to use the description ‘skeleton staff’!) remaining on site.

    It should be noted that seismic activity was included twice in the talk.

    During questioning Bob confirmed the concrete bases supporting the remaining boilers are undergoing major structural strengthening. He also confirmed the FED Dissolution plant will be dismantled over the next 4-6 months once its components have been decontaminated. The pipework will still be used to discharge rainfall.

    Next up was Jonathan from the NDA who gave more background into the monumental bungle the government over awarding the contract to Cavendish Fluor. Whilst he reinforced assurances that this will not happen again and the setting up of an enquiry lead by former National Grid’s Steve Holliday the fact is the taxpayer will be paying £100 million pounds. This is yet another sum to be added onto the true cost of Nuclear Power, the most subsidised form of electricity generation (pause to imitate Jeremy Clarkson) “In The World”.

    This section was a bit gloomy but Jonathan both answered questions comprehensively and has offered to be a contact within the NDA to find the best person to forward subsequent enquiries to.

    The Environment Agency Phil Heaton’s turn followed who gave no substantive new information or data. I questioned him about the Track of the Port of London Authority survey vessel which he knew nothing about, however, a Magnox member of staff answered that it had been employed to check seabed scouring.

    This was followed by a presentation from Simon Napper from the relatively newly formed Radioactive Waste Management, part of the NDA. This included a comprehensive image of the process of developing a final repository for the full range of existing radioactive waste. Professor Andy Blowers was mentioned and praised as one of the contributors to the overall plan.

    Simon handed over to a colleague and, despite the massive importance of this project, his unscripted talk rambled on and on to such an extent that the plot became more like a script from ‘Yes Minister’ where I imagined Sir Humphrey attempting to explain to Jim Hacker the need to have a consultation period on a forthcoming consultation yet be unable to specify costs because how could one estimate something that hadn’t happened yet! I think this was the low point as it is clearly so critical to move forward in having a definite plan to deal with waste.

    Overall I would conclude that this LCLC marked a turning point. Whilst there were only crumbs to glean about Bradwell B at least we know that the Blackwater Estuary will no longer receive radioactive pollutants and that the site will be more robustly secured once in C&M. However, there is still the issue of intermediate level waste within the graphite cores still in-situ.

    A closing paradoxical thought is that Bob mentioned that Magnox will never release FED dissolution effluent into the wild again, confirming fears that it should never have happened. This demonstrates that BANNG and companion protesters were right all along.

    Now there is ONLY one way to avoid future radioactive deposits being released into the Blackwater estuary and that is to prevent Bradwell B ever being built...


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