WE CAN CLEAR UP OLDBURY QUICKER
Bristol Evening Post 12 August 2005
The time required to decommission Oldbury nuclear power station after it closes could be cut to just 25 years. Current plans for the plant, near Thornbury, involve stopping generating in 2008 and the final site clearance not being completed until more than a century later in 2118.
But the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), which took over ownership of Oldbury and 19 other UK civil nuclear sites earlier this year, wants to accelerate significantly the decommissioning of the old Magnox stations.
Sir Anthony Cleaver, chairman of the NDA, said present plans left the problem of clearing sites for future generations. There were also continuing problems of safety, security and storage of radioactive waste.
He said: "We believe, based on experience in other countries, it ought to be possible to complete the decommissioning of these stations over a 25-year period.
"We want to achieve decommissioning and clean-up more quickly, more cost effectively, more safely and in a more environmentally- friendly manner."
Sir Anthony said decommissioning all of Britain's ageing nuclear power stations would cost £56 billion up from the £48 billion originally estimated.
Earlier this year, the cost of decommissioning Oldbury was put at £1.3 billion at today's prices. That has risen to £1.4 billion.
The eventual cost of decommissioning the Berkeley station, just up the River Severn from Oldbury, is estimated to be £823 million.
It stopped generating in 1989 and final site clearance had been expected in 2083 but the NDA believes that could now be achieved before 2030.
The NDA's proposals are published in its comprehensive national plan for the decommissioning and clean-up of its nuclear sites.
A consultation process has now started, continuing until November 11.
Oldbury started generating power in 1967 and has a main core of between 380 and 400 staff. On a typical day it generates enough electricity to serve a city one-and-a-half times the size of Bristol but both its reactors are currently out of action.
Reactor one, which only recently came back into use after a year-long closure, has been switched off again for an investigation of its boilers. The Nuclear Installations Inspectorate wanted further checks on the reactor's graphite core. Inspectors gave the all-clear earlier this year but anti-nuclear campaigners claim the depleted graphite could make the reactors "unstable" and want Oldbury closed permanently ahead of 2008.
Reactor two is undergoing routine inspection and maintenance.
Jon Buckingham, of South Gloucestershire Friends of the Earth, welcomed the shorter decommissioning programme. He said: "The previous policy was putting off the problem for our great-grandchildren to solve and pay for. This strategy makes it our problem. After all, we've created the waste." But he warned the group would be opposed to any plan to incinerate radioactive waste, even low-level waste. And he said the huge costs of decommissioning underlined "what a hopeless economic case" nuclear power was. He said: "Just think how fantastic our wind, wave and tidal power generation would be if that sort of money was invested in that instead."
Hinkley Point A in Somerset closed in 2000, and decommissioning will start this year. Hinkley Point B is due to close in 2011.