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The legacy of a nuclear power plant via Make Wealth History

While we were on holiday in Wales this summer, we passed Lyn Trawsfynydd and despite the protestations of my wife, we paused to take in the view:

That’s Trawsfynydd nuclear power station, a name I can neither pronounce nor spell. It’s the only nuclear site in Britain that was built inland rather than on the coast. And not just anywhere inland either, but right in the middle of Snowdonia National Park. The logic of this is not entirely clear, but nuclear power was more exciting in the 1950s. And besides, the architect was briefed to design a building that would blend into the landscape.

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The first stage of decommissioning was to remove the fuel and ship it to Sellafield for long term ignoring. After that the process of making the site safe began. At first this was just a matter of monitoring. As certain parts of the building became less radioactive, it was safe enough to send in the robots and start dismantling them. Any part of the site that had been in contact with nuclear fuel has to be carefully taken apart and safely stored. There’s a lot of this ‘intermediate nuclear waste’ to store, including a fair amount of uncatalogued waste that was stashed on site during its operation. Beginning in 1995, this stage of decommissioning was finally completed this year.

2016 is something of a landmark in the story of Trawsfynydd then, as the site is now ‘passively safe’ – as opposed to actively dangerous, I presume. That means they can lift the one-mile emergency area, and there’s little risk of a radiation incident in one of Britain’s most beautiful national parks.

Next comes some more traditional demolition work. Unless the Sir Basil Spence fans get a last-minute campaign together, those big square reactor buildings will be reduced in size. Then the site will sit for a bit longer until radiation levels decay enough to move that stored waste. We haven’t decided where it will go yet, but that’s scheduled to happen in the 2040s.

With the hazardous material off-site, we can clean up the storage facilities and begin to think about finally clearing the site. That is due to begin in 2074, with the site returned to its original state in 2083.

That 90-year decommissioning process is, by the way, the accelerated version and Magnox are quite proud of their innovative work at Trawsfynydd. It was originally going to take 135 years.

Read more at The legacy of a nuclear power plant 

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