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Sellafield's Thorp plant to close in six years

The controversial plant will close in 2018 once all existing contracts are completed.

File photo of Sellafield, with Thorp shown in the middle distance
File photo of Sellafield, with Thorp shown in the middle distance
Image: British Nuclear Group/PA Wire

THE UK’S NUCLEAR Decommissioning Authority has announced that the Thorp reprocessing plant at Sellafield is to close in 2018.

The closure will take place once all reprocessing contracts have been completed.

This closure means that remaining stores of unprocessed spent fuel will have to be placed in interim storage before a decision is made how to dispose of it, and other fuel, effectively. The NDA said that it is “still many years from making final decisions on the design on the disposal concept and the facility in which the spent fuel would be emplaced”.

The long-term disposal of this spent fuel – which will be placed in interim “wet storage” in the Thorp pond –  is expected to begin in 2075 with the construction of an underground waste storage area.

A statement from the NDA said that all Thorp contracts are expected to be completed by late 2018, and that the plant will be decommissioned after a clean-out phase.  The Thorp contracts had been expected to be finished by 2010, but a number of operational difficulties, including a three-year shutdown in 2005 following a leak, led to delays.

Last year the Mox nuclear plant at Sellafield was shut down. That site had taken spent fuel from Thorp and recycled it into mixed oxide fuel. At the time the NDA denied that the Mox closure would have an impact on the Thorp plant.

Read the NDA’s position on oxide fuels following the closure of Thorp>

Sellafield Mox nuclear plant closed – what does it mean for Ireland?

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About the author:

Emer McLysaght

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