Power station could close in less time

CLOSING Suffolk's oldest nuclear power station could take much less time than originally planned, the Evening Star can reveal today.But Sizewell A will remain a blot on the heritage coast landscape until the end of the century – few people alive today will be alive when it can eventually be demolished.

CLOSING Suffolk's oldest nuclear power station could take much less time than originally planned, the Evening Star can reveal today.

But Sizewell A will remain a blot on the heritage coast landscape until the end of the century - few people alive today will be alive when it can eventually be demolished.

The huge power station, which started generating electricity in 1965, is due to be switched off in April next year.

Its two magnox (magnesium oxide) reactors will be switched off - and the long decommissioning process will start.


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This will take place in three distinct phases.

The first - and quickest - will be the removal of nuclear fuel needed to operate the reactor.

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The second phase had been expected to take 15 years to complete - and this is what experts now hope to speed up.

This will involve removing all the non-nuclear elements of the power station, including the turbines used to generate the electricity, transformers, and office blocks.

The phase will also see the construction of a secure building to store intermediate nuclear waste safely.

Experts at British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (BNFL) now hope this phase of decommissioning can be completed in 10, or even five, years rather than the 15 originally planned.

BNFL spokesman Robin Thornton said: "We are looking at smarter and quicker ways of operating - but our top priority will always be to ensure the work is done safely.

"We will have to compete against other bodies to undertake this work, which will be done under the guidance of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).

"Our people know the plants involved and the people who live nearby know them so we are very determined to get the contract to decommission the plants," Mr Thornton added.

After the second phase of decommissioning the power stations will be secured and left in a state of "care and maintenance" for a period of at least 75 years until the level of radioactivity has fallen low enough for them to be finally demolished.

Although Sizewell A will be decommissioned from next year, Sizewell B will continue supplying power to the nation for many more decades.

It started producing electricity in 1994, almost three decades after its neighbouring plant, and is a totally different design.

It is a pressurised water reactor (PWR) unlike the older magnox station - and could continue supplying electricity until the middle of this century.

The first magnox station to be decommissioned was Berkeley in Gloucestershire which was "switched off" in 1989.

The second phase of decommissioning is still continuing there more than 15 years after it generated its last power.

However the power station at Trawsfynydd in North Wales was switched off in 1991 and has already entered the "care and maintenance" phase.

Bradwell power stations near Maldon in Essex were switched off in March 2002, with decommissioning starting the following year.

Do you think the decommissioning should be speeded up? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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