The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has accepted that Magnox’s Sizewell A Site is fuel free with 99 per cent of the radioactive hazard now removed from the former power station.
The final flask of fuel was dispatched to Sellafield in Cumbria for reprocessing last summer and since then a rigorous verification process has been undertaken, including the deployment of remotely operated underwater vehicles, to check the cooling ponds are empty.
Fuel, once removed from the reactors, was placed in the site ponds before being packaged in transport containers ready for shipment.
Acceptance from the regulator is a major step forward for Sizewell A which safely generated electricity for 40 years until the end of 2006. Confirmation of the reduction in hazard allows the site to move a step further into decommissioning activities and towards the point of closure.
It also means that large amounts of machinery, carefully maintained and operated for more than half a century, is now redundant.
Tim Watkins, Sizewell A Site Director, said: “Many of the team who operated and maintained the fuelling machines to insert and remove fuel elements from the reactor have done the job for a number of years, so they know the plant incredibly well.
“We’ve used their skills in the last few months to dismantle and remove these machines which has kept what could have been a complicated job relatively simple. This is another example of Magnox leading the way in UK nuclear decommissioning.”
Dr Brian Burnett, Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) Head of Programmes, said: “This confirmation by the ONR marks an important hazard reduction milestone on Sizewell A’s path towards care and maintenance. My congratulations to the Magnox team for an excellent job done.”
Watch a remote vehicle undertake checks in the cooling pond:
Watch the final fuel flask leave the site as defuelling was completed in 2014: