Hinkley Point A faces final shutdown

The UK’s Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) has given BNFL the go-ahead to decommission Hinkley Point A Power Station in Somerset.

Hinkley Point A will be the first nuclear power station to be decommissioned under guidelines set out by legislation introduced in 1999. A team from BNFL’s decommissioning arm, BNFL Environmental Services is carrying out the decommissioning.

The legislation requires production of a comprehensive Environmental Statement covering the company’s proposals for the 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.

During the last 18 months the station has also carried out a community communications programme to ensure people know what is involved with the decommissioning.

Station manager Joe Lamonby said: ‘Obtaining permission to start decommissioning is a major milestone for the station. An awful lot of planning has been going on, but it now means that we can physically begin to progress things.

‘We gave an undertaking when the Environmental Statement was produced to keep the community informed of our proposals. We have done that and we will continue to update people on progress.’

The NII and the Environment Agency will oversee the decommissioning process, parts of which will require normal planning consent.

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 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 waste has been generated during the life of the station and includes fuel can debris, filter sludges and resins. The two reactor buildings will be weatherproofed and made secure until they are removed in around 100 years’ time and the site totally cleared.

A decision was made on business grounds in May 2000 to close Hinkley Point A ahead of its planned shutdown date. By then the station had produced enough electricity to supply the whole of the UK’s domestic needs for 12 months.