Milestone reached for decommissioning of Berkeley nuclear power station

Berkely Nuclear Power Station before decommissioning
Berkely Nuclear Power Station Photo: Magnox

Berkeley nuclear power station, on the banks of the river severn in Gloucestershire, became the first commercial nuclear power station to be decommissioned, following its closure in 1989.Shutting down a nuclear power reactor like Berkeley is an incredibly long process. The fuel rods were all removed from the site in 1992, followed by the demolition of buildings in 1995. The large boiler tanks being removed today (monday) will be followed by a care and maintainance stage, which will commence in 2026. THis is to allow the background radiation present on the site time to "cool" - a natural process of decay which takes many years. Once the radioactivity of the site has fallen to safe levels it will be completely cleared between 2070 and 2080.

 90% of the metal will be recycled
Boilers to be removed Credit: Magnox

The five boilers being moved each weight 300 tonnes. They are 21 metres long by 5 metres wide. They will be shifted by road from Berkeley to Sharpness docks, where they will be shipped to sweden for smelting and recycling. 90% of the metal will be re-used. The journey will be a slow one - they depart from Berkeley at 10:00am.

Q&A: What were the boilers used for? They were used as part of a heat exchange system. The hot steam - heated by energy from nuclear fision - was held in the boilers and then under pressure sent to drive the turbines to generate electricity. They each weigh in at about 300 tonnes.

*Why are they being disposed of? *

Berkeley nuclear power station was shut down in 1989. This is part of the decomissioning process. Everything from the site is being disposed of, apart from two large buildings in which low level nuclear materials will be kept until they are less radioactive, in about 2070, when the site will be leveled.

*What will happen to the boilers? *

They are being shipped out to sweden where they will be converted into scrap metal, with around 90% of it returning to the market.

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