Decommissioning starts at Suffolk nuclear power station

The first huge flasks of spent radioactive fuel have been taken away from the Sizewell A nuclear power station.

The first flasks of spent radioactive fuel have been taken away from the Sizewell A nuclear power station.

The first spent fuel flask was taken from the power station, on the Suffolk coast south of Southwold, to Sellafield in Cumbria on Friday.

The flask was the first of about 310 that will be moved as part of the decommissioning of the Sizewell A site, which stopped producing electricity in December 2006.

The project will continue until all the fuel which is currently stored in Sizewell's twin reactors has been shipped to Sellafield to be processed. It is expected to take about three years.

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The spent fuel is transported in heavily shielded, purpose-built flasks which are made from 30cm thick forged steel. Each flask weighs more than 50 tonnes and holds up to 2.5 tonnes of fuel.

Paul Wilkinson, Sizewell A site director, said: 'We are very pleased to have started defuelling. Our fuel accounts for around 99% of the total radioactivity at Sizewell A so this is a big step towards removing the site's most significant hazard.'

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Defuelling was expected to start in December 2006 when the site, owned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, stopped generating. However there were fewer flasks available than needed, which has slowed the process down.

Charles Barnett, chairman of the Shut Down Sizewell Campaign, said: 'We welcome the removal of the radioactive spent fuel from the two nuclear reactors at Sizewell A.

'Eventually, when all the spent fuel is removed, which will take about three years, it will make the site safer.

'It is helpful for us in East Anglia but not good news for the people at Sellafield and we are concerned about that because when it gets there it has to be reprocessed and that involves the discharge of radioactivity into the Irish Sea.'

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