Sellafield reprocessing site to close in six years
It has been confirmed that THORP operations in Cumbria are likely to cease in 2018
The thermal oxide reprocessing plant (THORP) at Sellafield is to reprocess the last of its oxide fuel under existing contracts.
Oxide fuel is used in Advanced Gas-Cooled Reactors (AGR) operated by EDF Energy in the UK, and in Light Water Reactors (LWR) throughout the world.
THORP started operation in 1994 to reprocess spent fuel arising from the seven EDF Energy AGR power stations in England and Scotland, as well as fuel derived overseas.
It was shut down between 2005 and 2007 due to an internal leak of highly radioactive substance from a fractured pipe.
The loss of the pipe, which could not be repaired, meant an interim method had to be developed to maintain process flow.
The NDA has warned that operational difficulties could result in the reprocessing of less used fuel than currently planned
Partly due to these operational delays, the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency (NDA), which owns the Sellafield site, undertook a review of THORP last year.
At the time the review was announced, the NDA said its strategic position was to carry on with the reprocessing.
However, it set a number of conditions for reprocessing including measures for suitable storage for the fuel and its hazardous by-product.
Following the review, the NDA now plans to store Advanced Gas Cooled Reactor (AGR) fuel in the THORP pond on an interim basis until 2075, before being transferred to a geological repository.
The group warned that operational difficulties could result in the reprocessing of less used fuel than currently planned by 2018 and it would therefore “continue to examine alternative options so that we can manage these risks to the delivery of our strategy.”
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