The UK THORP (thermal oxide reprocessing plant) at Sellafield is likely to reprocess the rest of the spent fuel it is contracted to, a process expected to last until 2018, following a UK government strategic review.
The government’s Nuclear Decommissioning Agency, which owns the Sellafield site, commissioned the review partly after operational delays at THORP that are likely to have led to an eight-year delay in completing the work.
In November 2011, when the NDA announced the review, it said that its strategic position was to carry on with the reprocessing. It happened that studies found reasonable agreement between the amount of fuel contracted to be reprocessed and the amount of fuel judged to be economic to reprocess.
Then, the NDA set two conditions for THORP reprocessing to continue: provision of suitable interim storage for the fuel that would have been reprocessed (from the UK’s AGR fleet) after THORP closes, and confirmation of adequate storage for a hazardous by-product of the process.
Now that those analyses have come in, the NDA has announced that its plans, to finish the reprocessing, are its preferred option. In the first case, the Sellafield plan is that AGR fuel would be stored in the THORP pond on an interim basis (to 2075), before being transferred to a geological repository. There remains significant planning work, including formal safety case development, to make this change happen. In the second case, an analysis found that the current fleet of highly-active liquor storage tanks (HASTs) sufficient.
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