ONR release Winfrith land for development

A large area of one of the UK’s legacy nuclear sites will become available for redevelopment after regulators approved the removal of over ten hectares of land from the Winfrith nuclear site licence after decommissioning work.

The UK Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has approved the removal from the licence of an equivalent to about 12% of the Winfrith nuclear research and development site, which operated from the 1950s to the 1990s. This means the land can be redeveloped, and although there are no immediate plans it is anticipated that some of the newly delicensed area may be used for the development of a local green technology park.

Nine unique research and development reactors operated at Winfrith, in the southern English county of Dorset. The site has been undergoing decommissioning since the last operating reactor shut down in 1995, and seven of those nine have now been decommissioned and dismantled. The two remaining reactors – the Dragon prototype gas-cooled reactor and the Steam Generating Heavy Water Reactor (SGHWR), which was the only Winfrith reactor to supply electricity to the grid – have been defuelled and remain under care and maintenance in the zone which is still covered by the site licence.

Decommissioning work involves the removal of bulk radioactive material, dismantling and removal of contaminated parts of the facility, demolition work and final cleanup of the land to meet an agreed end state for future use. The newly delicensed area at Winfrith reflects the decommissioning and removal of several research facilities and other buildings including the zero energy reactor halls and fissile material store. Areas of grass now cover the land where some of Winfrith’s longest running research reactors once operated. Other areas released as part of the delicensing project contained an emergency services building, offices, workshops and a railhead. With redundant facilities removed, the land has been restored to brownfield status, prior to being made available for eventual non-nuclear use.

The closure of the site is managed by Research Sites Restoration Limited (RSRL), which is owned by Babcock International and operates under contract to the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Agency. Current plans would see the site’s final closure taking place in 2048, but the ONR notes that recently submitted proposals for an optimised decommissioning program from RSRL could see that date brought forward “significantly”. In a statement noting the release of the Winfrith land from the licence, the regulator expressed its confidence in RSRL’s ability to deliver on the optimised program.

Courtesy of WNN

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