Stop Hinkley's Response to the
Nuclear Decommissioning Authority
Stop Hinkley welcomes the opportunity to respond to the new NDA document and notes an interesting and refreshing approach in the new organisation.
Timescale of decommissioning:
- We agree with the proposition that old reactors should be dismantled in an early timeframe of twenty-five years. This concurs with our view that this is physically possible as much of the radiation will have subsided in that time span only leaving the much longer-lived isotopes. Robots can achieve the actual dismantling, allowing workers to stay isolated from radioactive materials.
- We feel this approach is fair to future generations who will not have benefited from the electricity produced in this generation. They will not be landed with a problem not of their own making.
- We note that other countries have decommissioning plans of this order of timescale.
- For the same reasons we disagree with the so-called 'Safestore' approach to decommissioning which would alloy reactors to be left in situ for a century. Additionally we feel this could be physically unsafe as the reactor buildings could deteriorate in that time. Moreover there would be no guarantee that future generations would not 'walk away' from the costly problem of dismantling and leave the contaminated reactors for longer still.
- From a local employment point of view the early timescale would provide the advantage of continuity of work.
- We disagree with the implied link between early decommissioning and a requirement for a nuclear waste repository. Our preferred method of dealing with nuclear waste is to place in above-ground or near-surface purpose built stores. There is no reason why the decommissioning strategy cannot fit in with this approach to dealing with High and Intermediate Level Waste.
- We oppose any use of incineration of radioactive waste for health reasons: the particles are not destroyed in furnaces but are dispersed over downwind populations. We note the recent interest in incinerating moderator core graphite and are especially concerned at this development.
Site Stakeholder Groups:
We applaud the NDA's decision to widen the scope of the existing LCLCs, which we believe had lost much credibility in local communities. The proposition that SSG members might be involved in more detail on matters relating to the decommissioning plans and progress has much merit. And the inclusion of NGO representatives to those discussions was also very helpful. So too was the prospect of the meetings being more interactive with local communities.
However in practice there has so far not been much change in evidence and this could undermine the progress of the NDA mission in other areas. There seems to be little 'real' work in terms of subcommittees etc looking in detail at site issues. Although other groups (Sellafield) have decided to meet away from the site and in local towns, this idea although it nearly passed at Hinkley, was put to a vote and voted down! This inconsistency is disappointing as the nearest large town is Burnham, five miles across Bridgwater Bay but an hour's drive by roads circling the bay. There are many people in Burnham concerned about discharges from the plant but it's asking too much for them to make a two hour return trip to engage with a rather dry and formal group. If they made the long journey they would then be expected to sit quietly through a two hour meeting with a twenty minute window in which they could interact with the group.
Running old Magnoxes
We are concerned that ancient Magnoxes are allowed to rumble on to raise cash for the NDA's principle activities.
Oldbury nuclear power station has been limping on with one or another reactor shut down in long outages for over a year. We obtained information about the graphite moderator through the Freedom of Information Act and were shocked at the condition of the reactor core. The NII had commissioned a study which declared that at 35% depletion the graphite bricks could only carry 15% of their original capacity. The papers declared the peak average depletion level to be 34%!
Advice from John Large, nuclear consultant was to the effect that dislodged bricks could trap fuel cans. Cracks developing could create local overheating, which could escalate to a fuel fire and meltdown, burning out filters and contaminating swathes of the population. These dangers held in the balance against the income from operating the reactor can only lead to the conclusion the reactor should shut down now.
We are not convinced by Ian Roxborough's letter to us that the NDA has no responsibility in this matter, that it only the operator's decision.
It's an unfortunate structure that ties the NDA's fund-raising to running old, dodgy and potentially highly polluting technology. THORP is another case in point.
Jim Duffy, Stop Hinkley Coordinator, 11 November 2005