Trawsfynydd: Nuclear reactors to go under new decommissioning plan

The decommissioned power station at Trawsfynydd Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The nuclear power station at Trawsfynydd was shut down in 1991

Plans have been unveiled to remove nuclear reactors and towers at a former power plant in Snowdonia.

It follows a decision to name Trawsfynydd in Gwynedd as the lead project for former Magnox stations in the UK.

The twin reactors will become the very first in the UK to be fully decommissioned.

It should safeguard hundreds of jobs at the plant for 20 years, and help drive decommissioning plans at other sites.

There are 10 former Magnox nuclear power stations in the UK, which have all now stopped generating electricity - the last being Wylfa on Anglesey in 2015.

Trawsfynydd was shut down in 1991 after operating for a quarter of a century.

Under original plans, the twin reactor buildings that tower over the landscape were due to be reduced in height by two-thirds, and then left in a care and maintenance phase, before the site is completely cleared in 2083.

The new programme will see the remaining reactor buildings demolished, while a new low-level radioactive waste store is built on the site to hold the material.

Image caption The two towers will be completely removed under the new plans

Magnox, which operates the site on behalf of the UK's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, said it estimated there would be 50,000 cubic metres of very low or low-level waste retained, until a new geological waste disposal site is identified by the UK government.

"The opportunity to remove the reactors down to the ground is an exhilarating prospect that will be part of a technological showcase to fully decommission the first civil nuclear reactor in the UK," said Angharad Rayner, the site director at Magnox.

"This is really good news that can secure employment for the next two decades and could lead to further opportunities for local people in the future."

Magnox said it was still in the "early days" of planning the next phase of active decommissioning at Trawsfynydd, and would be launching consultations with stakeholders, including the community.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The site is still due to be completely cleared by 2083

It said it envisaged a 20 year programme to:

  • Remove the reactor building's concrete panel outer shell down to ground level
  • Remove the six 1,000 tonne boilers stored in sections and the 45 tonne overhead crane from each reactor, for off-site disposal
  • Remove the reactors, their components and the reactor core
  • Demolish the remaining reactor buildings

State of the art robotics and remote handling will be used to dismantle Trawsfynydd's twin reactors and "minimise the risk of radiation dose to workers".

Magnox said it still expected the site to be completely cleared by the 2083 target.

Local MP Liz Saville Roberts welcomed the announcement and said it could mean up to 250 jobs on the site by 2021.

"There is a duty on the nuclear sector and today's electricity users to take responsibility for the clear-up of sites, and Trawsfynydd's twin reactors will be the first to be completely decommissioned in the United Kingdom," said the Plaid Cymru MP for Dwyfor Meirionnydd. "In this respect, work undertaken here will lead the entire sector, and open opportunities for a whole new generation of engineers."

The Welsh Government's Economy Minister Ken Skates said it was "good news for the region".

"We will now wait for further details and the business case, and we look forward to working with all parties on this exciting project," said Mr Skates.

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