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 »