Power plant decommissioning now in final stages

SHUTTING DOWN: The iconic Steam Generating Heavy Water Reactor in operation before it was shut down

SHUTTING DOWN: The iconic Steam Generating Heavy Water Reactor in operation before it was shut down

First published in News by

THE final phase in the decommissioning process at the former nuclear site at Winfrith is under way as experts turn their attention to the structure enclosing the reactor.

The iconic Steam Generating Heavy Water Reactor (SGHWR) was one of the most important and successful experimental reactors in the history of UK nuclear power.

Almost immediately after it was shut down, a programme of decommissioning began and is still going on today.

The final and most complex chapter has now begun – decommissioning of the primary containment, which houses thousands of tons of plant equipment, and is expected to take two-and-a-half years.

Research Sites Restoration Ltd (RSRL) is responsible for decommissioning the Winfrith site.

Communications manager for RSRL Emma Burwood said: “The work will be technically challenging due to the plant’s proximity to the reactor core and the large quantities of asbestos.

“A great deal of meticulous preparation is needed to carry out the work safely and efficiently.

“As work begins on the primary containment, a number of mitigating steps have been put in place to reduce operator radiation exposure. As well as providing high levels of safety training, RSRL is using 3D modelling, CCTV and real-time dose measurement equipment, together with augmented reality systems.”

The site is planned to be decommissioned by 2021.

  • THE Steam Generating Heavy Water Reactor (SGHWR) was a heavy water moderated reactor.

Built in the 1960s, it was operational for 23 years.

It demonstrated the reliability of the system and supported a major experimental programme, providing information on the operation and development of water-cooled reactors.

SGHWR operated as a power station, earning revenues from the national grid to offset some operating costs.

Following the switch from water-cooled reactor technology to gas-cooled, the government decided in 1990 to close the reactor down.

Stage 1 began with defuelling, draining, flushing, and emptying the fuel ponds.

In 1991, the cooling towers were demolished.

Stage 2 began in 2005, when thousands of tonnes of equipment was removed.

More recently, major equipment was removed from the secondary containment building.

Comments (1)

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7:39am Sat 15 Feb 14

Peter Morton says...

As young man from the nearby village of Wool I was employed on this project in the late 1960's. I worked with some real characters, but one man who is no longer with us is the late Tom Hawkins, he was an UKAEA employee, at a managerial level. Tom was a very strict man but he gave me real sound advice and guidance as far as my prospects and career path were concerned. I heeded that advice. I have been fortunate to worked all over the world and reach the pinnacle of my career from which I have now retired. I will be really sad to see this building disappear, but understand the reasons why. Whenever I visit Dorset this building reminds me of how fortunate I was to work there and how lucky I was have met Tom Hawkins.
As young man from the nearby village of Wool I was employed on this project in the late 1960's. I worked with some real characters, but one man who is no longer with us is the late Tom Hawkins, he was an UKAEA employee, at a managerial level. Tom was a very strict man but he gave me real sound advice and guidance as far as my prospects and career path were concerned. I heeded that advice. I have been fortunate to worked all over the world and reach the pinnacle of my career from which I have now retired. I will be really sad to see this building disappear, but understand the reasons why. Whenever I visit Dorset this building reminds me of how fortunate I was to work there and how lucky I was have met Tom Hawkins. Peter Morton
  • Score: 5

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