Nuclear Power Dossier: Decommissioning
1st June, 2006
Decommissioning has a ring of finality to it. But don't be fooled. A nuclear reactor will be standing for another 150 years before it is finally razed to the ground
As with permanently disposing of radioactive waste, the UK nuclear industry has never fully disposed of a commercial nuclear reactor. The major problem is that the reactor contains highly radioactive high-level waste that is less easily managed than spent fuel.
It takes three years alone to remove the 60,000 fuel rods that were in the reactor core when it powered its last watt. The sheer volume of the job causes delays, as this ‘high-level’ waste has to cool for at least six months before it can enter interim storage, before being prepared for final disposal.
Simultaneously, work gets underway on removing other high-level waste, known as CRUD – corrosions, residuals and unidentified deposits, or ‘primary hazardous materials’ – from the cooling systems. Again, this is high-level waste that has to be casked and sent for permanent disposal.
Decontamination of the facility follows, where residual radioactive and chemical waste is removed from the fabric of the buildings and equipment by washing, heating, chemical or electrochemical action, and mechanical cleaning. This creates a cocktail of chemical...
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