The UK's Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) has given the go-ahead to decommission the two Hinkley Point A reactors. The Magnox plant was closed in May 2000 on economic grounds, following 35 years of service. Defuelling has been underway for the last 18 months, and is almost 50% complete.
It is the first time permission has been given to decommission a nuclear power station under new legislation introduced in 1999. The legislation requires production of a comprehensive environmental statement covering the company's proposals for the ultimate total clearance of the site and landscaping. The statement went out for a six-month public consultation period early last year. A further, shorter consultation was carried out this year.
All thermal insulation is due to be removed from the station over the next four years in one of the largest contracts of its type ever let in the UK. As the station was designed in the 1950s and built in the 1960s, a lot of the insulation contains asbestos, although some of it has been replaced over the years.
The early phase, which will last for several years, will involve alterations to the two reactor buildings, the removal of all other buildings including the giant turbine hall and construction of a new store to contain packaged radioactive waste until a national repository for disposal of that waste is available. The two reactor buildings will be weatherproofed and made secure until they are removed in around 100 years' time and the site totally cleared.