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Health and Safety during the decommissioning process

Nuclear Health and Safety

The Wylfa Nuclear Power Station is on the island of Anglesey, North Wales. It houses two nuclear reactors (490 MW Magnox). Reactor 2 was retired in 2012, and Reactor 1 may operate until 2014 according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Wylfa had, in 2009, applied to the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) for consent for its decommissioning. But this can only be valid for 5 years and since the plant is still operational, it is seeking a new decommissioning consent. Any nuclear reactor plant considering decommissioning, must submit to the ONR an Environmental Statement (ES), which includes an environmental impact assessment. Wylfa is just one of the 37 licensed nuclear reactors in the UK regulated by the ONR. The function of ONR is to protect people and the environment from the hazards associated with the nuclear industry.

Where a licensee wishes to quality for a decommissioning consent, they must demonstrate a strategy of how all redundant and operational nuclear plants, that they are responsible for, can be decommissioned safely. Site inspections would then be carried out throughout the decommissioning process to ensure the site is maintaining nuclear safety. An environmental impact of decommissioning for the nuclear plant must be undertaken according to the legislation of the Nuclear Reactors (Environmental Impact Assessment for Decommissioning) Regulations 1999 (EIADR). If the project is considered acceptable HSE grants consent for the decommissioning project.

Environmental Statement (ES)

This must include the impact on the environment of the decommissioning, and must identify mitigation measures to prevent and reduce any adverse effects on the environment. It should include details of dismantling and clearance of the site, where possible. Details of the environmental effect of each stage of the decommissioning must be included, and, also where there is uncertainty in the later stages. Effects on the environment should include the direct, indirect, secondary, cumulative, short, medium and long term, permanent, temporary, positive and negative effects. Attempts should be made to contact the general public and special interest groups about the proposed decommissioning plan. Where possible the impacts should be expressed in measureable quantities. The mitigation measures of significant and minor affects should be included.

The following must be included in the ES

•         Air and climate. The could include the impact of dust from the demolition of buildings. Depending on the source, dust may also be contaminated with radioactive material and asbestos. There may be dust emissions from vehicles travelling to and from the plant.

•         Flora and fauna (ecology). There may be accidental spills and changes in the water table. There may be disruption of local habitat by storage of materials, earth movements and site clearance. There may be Radiological impacts on wildlife.

•         Landscape and visual. There may be temporary visual impacts like construction works.

•         Material assets (including archaeology and cultural heritage). There may be removal, alteration of buildings or destruction of sensitive archaeological deposits.

•         Population (socio-economics). There may be loss of jobs, Sellafield, for example, employs 10,000 people.

•         Soil (including geology, hydrogeology and contaminated land). Some sites may be historically contaminated. Many sites were used during World War 2 as airfields or munitions manufacturing, this was during a time when environmental standards were not as strict as today.

•         Water. There may be accidental spills which can distress aquatic life.

 

Sources: Wikipedia    HSE

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