Bradwell decommissioning teamMagnox Ltd announced in July that the former Bradwell nuclear site in the UK is entering into the next phase of decommissioning following removal of the last of its radioactive waste. 

In a programme of work spanning seven years, hundreds of thousands of litres of radioactive resins and sludge have been retrieved, conditioned and packaged at Bradwell. These wastes were accumulated during the 40 years that the Bradwell station was in operation. Radioactive sludge collected from the ponds which stored the site’s used nuclear fuel during operation, while the resins were important for removing the radioactive content from site’s discharges. Following its retrieval, the waste was treated and packaged in self-shielding ductile cast iron containers known as ‘yellow boxes’ making it suitable for interim storage at the site’s purpose-built facility.

Carl Harden, Magnox Project Manager, said: “Completing this work is absolutely critical to getting the site into care and maintenance." 
"The next step in the decommissioning programme will be to dismantle the operational plant itself,” he said.  

Bradwell is one of 17 civil nuclear sites in the UK owned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), and is expected to achieve a milestone for the nuclear industry when it becomes the first to enter the care and maintenance phase, during which it will remain in a safe condition while remaining radioactivity decays naturally. (The site’s interim storage facility, however, will contine to receive packaged waste from other Magnox sites in the south east for some time.)

During the care and maintenance phase, the Bradwell site will be monitored, maintained and periodically inspected until final site clearance is started after about 80 years. The final stage in a site’s lifecycle will see the removal of reactor vessels and building demolition. Bob Nichols, Bradwell Site Closure Director, noted: “The work hasn’t been without its challenges, but the lessons we’ve learned will be extremely valuable for the other sites which follow Bradwell. We are now focused on the last few steps to get Bradwell into C&M – completing weatherproofing work on the reactor buildings and removing the remaining ancillary buildings on site. Closing Bradwell during this calendar year is firmly in our sights”.

Alan Cumming, Nuclear Operations Director at the NDA, noted that the cleanup of intermediate level waste at Bradwell has been "a priority for a number of years," and is a perfect demonstration of progress being made against to cleanup the UK’s civil nuclear legacy.

The news follows a significant 12 months of decommissioning progress at Bradwell, which also saw the completion of fuel element debris dissolution in June 2017 and the reclassification of some of this intermediate level waste as low level waste, enabling it to be sent to the UK’s Low Level Waste Repository, in Cumbria, for disposal.

Photo: The team involved in getting Bradwell ready for care and maintenance (Photo: Magnox Ltd)