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Dungeness dives in

In a significant step forward for nuclear decommissioning in the UK, divers are being used to clean-up the former cooling ponds at Dungeness A Site.

Bringing with it a host of safety and environmental benefits, the work will see the pond skips that were once used to store used nuclear fuel cut up and packaged for disposal, with the water that remains in the ponds acting as additional radiation protection for the divers.

The technique also has additional environmental benefits, as the alternative of cutting skips after they have been removed from the ponds would require additional measures to prevent potential airborne contamination.

During electricity generation, the ponds were used to store used nuclear fuel in skips before it was sent off site for reprocessing. The site has been fuel free for over four years but the skips, which are classed as intermediate level waste, need to be safely disposed of.

Dungeness A Site Closure Director, Paul Wilkinson, said: “The use of divers was a change in our way of working. We have successfully shown through trials that this work can be carried out safely and we can now make good progress in the clean-up of the cooling ponds.”

Once cut up the skips will be stored in approved waste containers in a shielded storage area on site before they are packaged for interim storage.

During the work an additional 20 tonnes of pond furniture, including framework and machinery, classed as low level waste will be removed and cut up before being disposed of at the Low Level Waste Repository in West Cumbria.

The learning from the work at Dungeness A Site, expected to be completed in early 2017, will be passed on to other Magnox sites where similar work will be carried out, with Sizewell A Site being the next destination.

John Clarke, NDA’s Chief Executive, said: “We always encourage our contractors to adopt the highest standards of safety, security and environmental responsibility. This work by Magnox Ltd shows that they are making real progress in clearing the ponds at Dungeness, in a way that is not only safe for the environment, but is also saving time and money.”