Decommissioning - closing old nuclear sites

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When a power company decides to close its nuclear power plant permanently, they must decommission it.  They need to:

  • stop operation
  • remove hazardous waste and store it safely
  • reduce radioactivity to agreed safe levels
  • decontaminate and demolish the buildings they are not using
  • return the site to a state where it can be reused. 

Who is responsible for decommissioning the Sellafield site?

Some of the nuclear reactors, plants and buildings on the Sellafield site date back to the 1950s and are no longer fit for purpose. Decommissioning at Sellafield started in the 1980s and gathered pace when the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) was formed in 2005.

 NDA is a non-departmental body that owns 19 nuclear sites including Sellafield. It is responsible for ensuring the Sellafield site is decommissioned and cleaned up and that all wastes arising from the decommissioning process are handled securely.

Some of the other NDA sites, for example Dounreay in the north of Scotland, are more advanced in the decommissioning process.

Sellafield have produced the Sellafield Site Decommissioning Strategic Objectives.  We work with Sellafield and the NDA to assess the impacts of their plan on the local community.

How’s it going?

  • 55 buildings have been safely demolished at Sellafield
  • 2,110 Sellafield Ltd employees are working on decommissioning
  • 108 decommissioning projects are currently underway at Sellafield today

Find out more

Decommissioning and waste management are continuous processes. They will take many years to evolve and require significant investment on site.  We will:

  • ensure that the NDA consults the local community on any of the proposals
  • represent the Copeland community to ensure that the proposed plans consider their economic and social needs

The West Cumbria Site Stakeholder Group (WCSSG )[G]  provides a two-way channel of communication between the Sellafield site and the local community.

The group – which includes representatives from local government, regulators, unions and community groups – meets quarterly. Its six sub-committees scrutinise detailed aspects of the Sellafield and Low Level Waste Repository sites, including operational issues, environment health, emergency planning and socio-economic impacts.

The public is invited to attend all meetings, and meetings are held in locations that are freely accessible to members of the public and press.

For information on the groups and where and when the next meetings will take place, please visit the WCSSG website, where you can register for email updates.



Published: 20 August 2012 - 1:36pm