Sellafield, former star of the nuclear age, scrubs up for a different future. When uranium was scarce, reprocessing was all the rage. Two decades on, the Cumbrian plant, though still a major source of jobs, has outlived its mission. It’s the endgame for Sellafield, as its focus shifts to a decades-long mission of storing civil and military nuclear waste and gradually cleaning up the 700-hectare site. The site, known to be the most hazardous industrial facility in Europe, dates back to the dawn of the nuclear age. This is where British scientists rushed to develop nuclear weapons during the cold war. The opening here of the world’s first nuclear power station in 1956 was billed as the start of a “new atomic age”. Insiders often reach for the metaphor of 3D chess to describe the challenge of removing old and often contaminated infrastructure while building modern facilities to house waste the government hopes will one day be buried deep underground. With 11,000 workers, Sellafield is like a town, with a laundry, hospital, restaurants and its own armed police to protect the stockpile of plutonium, the biggest in the world. The facility eats up two-thirds of the UK’s annual £3bn nuclear clean-up spending. With the recent collapse of plans to build a new nuclear power station in the field next door, Sellafield is a vital source of decent, high-paying jobs for the area. One anecdote shared – perhaps apocryphal – is of a local lawyer taking a job in the Sellafield laundry because it was better paid. Tony Lywood, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Copeland, said even with no job losses, the end of reprocessing was a “disaster” for the area because of the changing nature of the work. He also opposes plans to see more future jobs in the private sector supply chain. But Jamie Reed, a former Labour MP who quit two years ago to become head of community relations at Sellafield, said: “Our people have been brilliant. They understand Sellafield is changing. The mission is now clean-up.”

Observer 15th Dec 2018 read more »

Some 25 years ago Sellafield’s then operator British Nuclear Fuels plc (BNFL) took many by surprise by publishing plans to supplement Calder Hall’s electricity output (for Sellafield site use) not with a new nuclear plant but with a Combined Heat and Power plant (CHP) that would run on natural gas pumped from the Irish Sea via a Barrow-in-Furness land hub. The 168MWe Fellside CHP plant, now owned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s subsidiary Sellafield Ltd and operated by PX Group, has generated electricity and steam for the Sellafield complex since 1995, with surplus electricity fed into the National Grid. However, in a letter in July last year from Sellafield Ltd to local authority planners, the Fellside CHP is described as ‘an aging asset approaching the end of its design life with a large degree of obsolesence’.

CORE 15th Dec 2018 read more »

Posted: 16 December 2018


HANT welcomes the final flight according to an unknown source but remains cautious for 2 reasons : i) There has been no information provided about the nuclear materials that were supposed to be coming in exchange from the US and converted into radio isotopes to treat cancers, and ii) Why have only 6 flights taken place when 12 were announced last year ? Answers on a post card please to HANT !

HANT 13th Dec 2018 read more »

Posted: 16 December 2018


Thirty years ago it seemed like a dream: now it is a nuclear nightmare. A project presented to the world in the 1990s by the UK government as a £2.85 billion triumph of British engineering, capable of recycling thousands of tons of spent nuclear fuel into reusable uranium and plutonium is shutting down – with its role still controversial. Launched amid fears of future uranium shortages and plans to use the plutonium produced from the plant to feed a generation of fast breeder reactors, the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant, known as THORP, was thought to herald a rapid expansion of the industry. In the event there were no uranium shortages, fast breeder reactors could not be made to work, and nuclear new build of all kinds stalled. Despite this THORP continued as if nothing had happened, recycling thousands of tons of uranium and producing 56 tons of plutonium that no one wants. The plutonium, once the world’s most valuable commodity, is now classed in Britain as “an asset of zero value.” Over its lifetime the giant plant at Sellafield in Cumbria, north-west England, has taken spent fuel from eight countries as well as the UK and succeeded in producing a small mountain of plutonium and uranium of which only a tiny fraction has ever been re-used as intended. Instead most has been stockpiled and is now stored under armed guard with no use or purpose in sight. Martin Forwood, from Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment, who opposed the building of the plant and has monitored its fortunes ever since, summed up: “The plant should never have been built in the first place, has never worked as planned and has left a legacy stockpile of uranium and plutonium that no-one knows what to do with.”

Climate News Network 14th Dec 2018 read more »

Posted: 15 December 2018


The Dounreay nuclear reactor site is to be levelled by services firm Cavendish Nuclear. The multi-million pound contract, awarded by Dounreay Site Restoration Limited, will see Cavendish Nuclear “dismantle and demolish” the site in the final phase of decommissioning. Cavendish Nuclear said it expects to take three years to complete the removal of the reactor. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s director of nuclear operations, Alan Cumming, said: “The start of the work to demolish the DMTR represents a significant step in our mission to decommission and clean-up the legacy from the very earliest days of the UK’s nuclear industry.” Dounreay became Scotland’s first operating reactor when it achieved criticality in 1958. It was used for irradiation tests on materials until its shutdown in 1969.

Energy Voice 14th Dec 2018 read more »

Press & Journal 14th Dec 2018 read more »

Cavendish Nuclear has been awarded a three-year, multi-million pound contract to dismantle and demolish the oldest reactor on the Dounreay site in Scotland, the Dounreay Materials Test Reactor (DMTR). The award of the contract followed a competitive tendering exercise.

World Nuclear News 14th Dec 2018 read more »

BBC 14th Dec 2018 read more »

Posted: 15 December 2018


The last reported flight taking high-grade nuclear material from Dounreay in Caithnesss has taken place. But the movements have again sparked a furious reaction from politicians. Highland Green MSP John Finnie said: “Given the secrecy surrounding this reckless operation, I fear we will never know for sure what is to happen to the material which presumably was the cargo on the now reportedly cancelled further six flights. “I’ll be writing the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority about this matter.”

Aberdeen Press & Journal 13th Dec 2018 read more »

Posted: 14 December 2018


The last reported flight taking high-grade nuclear material from Dounreay in Caithnesss has taken place. But the movements have again sparked a furious reaction from politicians. Highland Green MSP John Finnie said: “Given the secrecy surrounding this reckless operation, I fear we will never know for sure what is to happen to the material which presumably was the cargo on the now reportedly cancelled further six flights. Tor Justad, chairman of Highlands Against Nuclear Transport (HANT), said: “HANT has opposed these flights since they were first announced during a Cameron-Obama nuclear summit deal in 2016. “The summit agreed that the UK would transport 700kg of highly enriched uranium to the US from Dounreay while a different form of nuclear material would be moved from America to European Atomic Energy Agency (Euratom) and turned into radio isotopes used to detect and diagnose cancer. “HANT is fully aware of the security implications of these flights but is also of the view that the public have a right to know the risks involved in transporting this most dangerous of cargoes by air from the UK which would not meet US standards for civil nuclear shipments. “HANT will again be raising these questions with local MPs and MSPs to get to the truth on these matters.” spokeswoman for DSRL (Douneay Site Restoration Ltd) said: “Dounreay is closing down and nuclear materials are being removed from the site ahead of its planned closure. “Our priority at all times is to comply with regulations governing the safe and secure transportation of nuclear material, both in storage and transit. “Compliance with these regulations includes protecting information about routes, dates, timings and locations of nuclear materials in any current or future transport.”

Energy Voice 13th Dec 2018 read more »

Posted: 13 December 2018


Representatives from the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant have appeared in court after a worker was allegedly exposed to plutonium. Sellafield Ltd was charged with a health and safety offence after an incident at the West Cumbria site in February last year. The company entered no plea at Carlisle Crown Court. The prosecution relates to “risks arising from hand working within glove boxes”. The glove boxes are sealed containers, with integral gloves, which allow someone to work on objects or materials that need to be kept in a separate atmosphere. The company faces one charge brought by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) under the Health and Safety at Work Act. A trial has been provisionally earmarked for April next year with another hearing listed for February. This is the first prosecution brought by the ONR since it was established in 2014.

BBC 11th Dec 2018 read more »

Posted: 12 December 2018

Nuclear Waste

In writing this ‘nothing happening here’ update, there’s always a hope “sod’s law” will come into play, and the Government will sneak out a GDF announcement right before Christmas. My Santa list and wishful thinking aside, that’s now very unlikely. The question therefore becomes — when? When will the GDF policy move forward? It’s not unreasonable to assume that nothing will now happen until the Brexit boil is lanced. Whenever and however that happens.

GDF Watch 7th Dec 2018 read more »

It has been over 10 years, 4 Prime Ministers, and 5 Administrations since the original Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) recommended geological disposal. In that period successive Governments of all Parties have recommitted to geological disposal. With the recent publication of position papers updating their advice on a range of key issues, the latest CoRWM have also reaffirmed their expert opinion that geological disposal remains the best available way to dispose of higher-activity radioactive waste. Four new papers have been issued in response to specific concerns raised in stakeholder submissions to the public consultations earlier this year on the GDF draft National Policy Statement (NPS) and the Working With Communities siting policy:

GDF Watch 7th Dec 2018 read more »

A leading campaigner fighting against a new nuclear power station has been presented a prestigious medal. Professor Andy Blowers, of Mersea, travelled to New York to receive the Alexander and Ilse Melamid Medal by the American Geographical Society. The award recognised his “outstanding work” in the nuclear research field. He is chairman of Blackwater Against New Nuclear Group – Banng – which opposes plans for a new Chinese-built power plant on the River Blackwater in Bradwell.

Essex County Standard 9th Dec 2018 read more »

Posted: 10 December 2018

US – Radwaste

The U.S. government has worked for decades and spent tens of billions of dollars in search of a permanent resting place for the nation’s nuclear waste. Some 80,000 tons of highly radioactive spent fuel from commercial nuclear power plants and millions of gallons of high-level nuclear waste from defense programs are stored in pools, dry casks and large tanks at more than 75 sites throughout the country. A Stanford University-led study recommends that the United States reset its nuclear waste program by moving responsibility for commercially generated, used nuclear fuel away from the federal government and into the hands of an independent, nonprofit, utility-owned and -funded nuclear waste management organization. “No single group, institution or governmental organization is incentivized to find a solution,” said Rod Ewing, co-director of Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation and a professor of geological sciences. The three-year study, led by Ewing, makes a series of recommendations focused on the back-end of the nuclear fuel cycle. The report, Reset of America’s Nuclear Waste Management Strategy and Policy, was released today.

Stanford News 10th Dec 2018 read more »

Posted: 10 December 2018

Radioactive Waste

The National Waste Programme (NWP) has undertaken a number of significant pieces of work during the 2018 to 2019 financial year regarding the packaging of radioactive in the UK. As a result the Packaging to 2050 of Low Level Waste Identified in the UKRWI report has been produced. The report reviews the industries packaging needs to 2050 for waste identified in the UKRWI as LLW and includes demand profiles for key containers. The report also identifies gaps in container provision, barriers to the use of existing containers and additional work required to ensure that appropriate container provision will be available to support future LLW management up to 2050.

LLWR Ltd 7th Dec 2018 read more »

Posted: 8 December 2018