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Atomic Energy Reactors

Volume 979: debated on Thursday 28 February 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy what studies have been undertaken by his Department to ascertain the decommissioning procedures to be adopted for Central Electricity Generating Board Magnox reactors and other atomic energy reactors.

Studies and associated development work on the problem of decommissioning reactors are being carried out by the UKAEA, the CEGB and the Health and Safety Executive. The EEC has also recently adopted a five-year research programme costing about £4 million. The first step in decommissioning is the removal of the fuel for reprocessing in the ordinary way. This removes the great bulk of the radioactivity. The studies referred to are therefore directed to the problems of dismantling and disposing of the reactor structure, which is itself radioactive making its early demolition difficult.

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what is his estimate of a likely period when the 26 Magnox reactors now operating on 11 sites in the United Kingdom will have to be decommissioned.

Current estimates indicate that Magnox reactors are likely to have been withdrawn from use for generation of electricity by the mid 1990s. Actual dates will be determined in the light of experience, having regard to the need to meet safety requirements and the benefits of maximising output from these reactors.Decommissioning would begin with the removal of the nuclear fuel. Surveillance and safety requirements for the remaining structures, containing only relatively small amounts of radioactivity would then be minimal. How long it would be before these were removed would depend on the balance between removal costs which will decline as the residual radioactivity decays, and the value of the site for other uses.Questions concerning the Magnox reactors at Hunterston are matters for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.