The last of more than 38,000 nuclear fuel elements has been removed from the decommissioned Chapelcross nuclear plant in Scotland six weeks ahead of schedule, site management company Magnox Ltd has said.
Magnox said that subject to verification work over the next few months, Scotland’s first commercial nuclear power plant will be completely free of fuel for the first time in over 50 years, resulting in “99 percent of the radioactivity being removed from the site”.
Since Chapelcross ceased electricity generation in 2004, various decommissioning work has been undertaken at the site, including the demolition of cooling towers in May 2007.
Major work was carried out before defuelling could get under way, Magnox said. This included the design, manufacture, installation and commissioning of a 30-millon-pound (45 million US dollars, 34 million euro) upgrade to the plant.
Following formal permission to start defuelling from the Office for Nuclear Regulation in July 2008, the first flask of fuel left the site in April 2009, and over the next four years 38,075 fuel elements in 257 flask shipments have been systematically and safely removed from all four Chapelcross reactors.
The site was originally set a target to complete defuelling by June 2013. Magnox said progress steadily increased in the first three years of the project with 30 flasks despatched to Sellafield in 2009/10, 51 flasks in 2010/11 and 73 flasks in 2011/12.
In the last year all four reactors been completely defuelled, beating the original target of June 2013 by four months, and the revised Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) target of March 2013, six weeks ahead of schedule.
Once fuel-free status has been verified work will continue on various decommissioning projects as the site aims to move to a “care and maintenance” phase in 2017.
Construction of four Magnox reactor units at Chapelcross began in 1955 and was completed in 1959.
Magnox Ltd is responsible for decommissioning the 10 Magnox nuclear sites on behalf of their owner, the NDA.
Twenty-six Magnox units were built in the UK, where the design originated, between 1956 and 1971.