Chapelcross in Scotland

Posted: 10th January 2022

Following on from a previous article on Hunterston B which was shut down last Friday I decided to have a look at one of the smaller nuclear powerstations in Scotland to see how work was progressing on decommissioning. Chapelcross nuclear power station occupies a 92 hectares site on the location of a former World War II training airfield in Annan. Chapelcross had 4 Magnox reactors, each with a 48MW output. Chapelcross was linked to sister plant Calder Hall in Cumbria which is now the site of the NDA’s Sellafield operation. Calder Hall closed in 2003 and Chapelcross in 2004.Both plants were originally operated by the UK Atomic Energy Authority. Their main purpose was to produce weapons-grade plutonium although they also generated electricity for the National Grid.  By 1st April 2019, Chapelcross had been defuelled and all High Level Waste moved to Sellafield. At that point, almost three years ago, the Intermediate Level Waste as well as LLW had still to be dealt with. The VLLW would appear to be close to the end of the decommissioning process. The LLW is destined for containers in Cumbria and the estimated 4,900 cublic metres of Intermediate Level Waste will be left on site in specially constructed containers for a period of 120 years, pending a Scottish Government decision around 2145 on disposal of the containers and contents. The interim storage facility for storing Intermediate Level Waste at Chapelcross began 2014 and was completed by May 2021 when the first ‘package’ was placed in the facility. In announcing this progress Magnox Ltd and the NDA said in a news release; “The Interim Storage Facility (ISF) can hold over 700 waste packages of four different approved package types, and will be filled over the next five years as part of decommissioning work. Standing at 57m longand 23m wide, it has been constructed to safely and securely store packages for 120 years.” Work on the Intermediate Level Waste which is due to complete in 2026. The storage facility is then sealed for 120 years when a decision will be made by the Scottish Government on final disposal of ILW storage and contents. Whilst it can be argued that the core decommissioning work will take around 22 years, the end game is still 120 years away making144 years in total for final clearance at the site. Chapelcross operated for 44 years. The ILW will remain on the site until 2146 although the buildings will be long gone by then. It is essential we deal with the legacies of the past and do so to the highest possible standard because we owe that to our own and future generations. The question for policy makers is do we really want to contemplate building new nuclear power stations when the legacy will be with future generations for 102 years, nearly two and a half times beyond any new nuclear plant’s operational life. Thecost of nuclear electricity generation is high and future costs of dealing with the legacy are also passed on to at least four future generations. Newsnet 10th Jan 2022

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