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Topic Title: Can we make further productive use of Wylfa Magnox Nuclear Station site at Angelsey?
Topic Summary: UK Molten Salt Nuclear Reactor Development Programme Revisited
Created On: 30 November 2013 10:35 PM
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 30 November 2013 10:35 PM
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jarathoon

Posts: 1043
Joined: 05 September 2004

Like a few other members of the IET I went along to Ian Scott's talk on "Horizons: Thorium and Molten Salt Reactors for Nuclear Power - Nuclear power cheaper than coal?" jointly organised by IMechE and IChemE.

Although much of the engineering detail was lacking he has come up some good ideas which seem to be worth pursuing, and may act to cut the cost of developing a molten salt reactor which would be very welcome indeed.

There is added pressure now on us engineers to find ways of cost effectively pushing ahead with a UK based Molten Salt Nuclear Reactor Development Programme. In previous posts I optimistically said we should aim to start building a first molten salt reactor prototype in 2017. Finishing it by 2020.

I concluded sometime ago that the best place to locate a molten salt reactor would be in the North West of England somewhere (because of the available workforce and industrial expertise). However there do not appear to be any suitable existing nuclear licensed sites in the North West, suitable for siting a new nuclear test reactor.

I have been reminded by a conversation I had recently, that the Wylfa Nuclear Power Station is closing down towards the end of 2014 (with an operating extension sought to December 2015) because the fuel it needs is no longer available.

If the steam turbine generator sets at Wylfa are in a serviceable enough condition so that their lifetime can be extended to 2025 or beyond then this could be a way of reducing the initial cost of a molten salt reactor development programme significantly. An existing workforce experienced in working in the nuclear power industry and in dealing with the regulatory authorities would be an added benefit of locating at Wylfa.

The building containing the molten salt reactor would be no bigger than the existing Magnox reactor buildings and could be placed adjacent to the existing site. (or even perhaps on the site with a little re-arrangement).

The GE-Hitachi advanced boiling water reactor (if built) at Wylfa won't be ready until after 2025, so there is a large time window opening up to use the facilities at Wylfa, including the grid connection. The Wylfa site could be operated as an energy education and training park, and could help train up people to work in the wider energy industry, not just the nuclear industry (to bring in some income).

Another possibility is to build (or relocate) a coal/biomass burning furnace to help keep the Wylfa steam turbines operational for peaking work in the period before the molten salt test reactor starts up (2015 to 2020). Peaking power payments from National Grid (up until 2020) will generate some income to run the site during this period.

Any thoughts?

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James Arathoon
 01 December 2013 01:20 AM
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jarathoon

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The original Horizon Nuclear Power planning application is here

See the maps at the end of the report. The land reserved for the new power stations seems very large compared to the existing site.

Horizon Nuclear Power are proposing to start building their first Advanced Boiling Water Reactor in 2018 and have electricity generated at the new site by 2025. In the meantime they have to get the design approved by the ONR.

http://www.horizonnuclearpower.com/wylfa

Horizon originally envisaged re-using the existing 400kV substation (with upgrades as requred) by 2025.

The ONR has already run the "Public consultation on the request for consent to decommission Wylfa nuclear power station". It ended 9 August 2013.

http://www.hse.gov.uk/consult/condocs/cdwylfa/


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James Arathoon
 01 December 2013 02:10 AM
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jarathoon

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The ONR's Generic Design Assessment of the GE-Hitachi Advanced Boiling Water Reactor is expected to take 4 years, with the current expected completion date being the end of 2017.

http://www.hse.gov.uk/newreact...-report-1212-0813.pdf

(See paragraph 17)

The molten salt reactor design has to be much much simpler than the ABWR or EPR to have any chance of reducing the regulatory assessment and approval timescales.

The four year build program for the molten salt test reactor from 2017 to 2020 includes some regulatory headroom, but obviously not 4 years worth of regulatory assessment and approval.



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James Arathoon
 02 December 2013 06:59 PM
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kengreen

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hello James,

I wish I possessed your powers of dreaming. Instead I am lumbered with the real problem which lies in our ever-increasing need for electrical energy; it doesn't matter at all what it costs? We either stump up the money or start the preparation of mass graves!

You could turn your word-tsunami onto the real problem namely why do we have to balance everything against the purely-fictional commodity known as money? Money represents only the "wealth" which is generated by our labour - oh dear, what have I said?? ! ...

Ken Green
 03 December 2013 04:02 PM
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jarathoon

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E-mail sent to the Energy Island Team, Angelsey.

http://www.anglesey.gov.uk/business/energy-island/

Cc'd to various other organisations including NDA, DECC, Business Department, NNL, Weinberg Foundation, Horizon Power.


Dear Sir/Madam,

I am investigating the feasibility of re-tasking the existing Wylfa Magnox Nuclear Site on Angelsey, to host a Molten Salt Nuclear Reactor Development programme. This would also involve the area hosting a energy park suitable for training up technicians and engineers wanting to work in the nuclear energy sector as well as other parts of the energy industry.

There are a increasing number of people coming to the conclusion that the existing third generation reactors are just to expensive to build and run. One alternative nuclear strategy is to make the jump now to simpler and safer fourth generation technologies, such as molten salt nuclear reactors. See for example the Weinberg Foundation Website http://www.the-weinberg-foundation.org

From some ideas recently presented at a Thorium Nuclear Energy Conference at Cern, and elsewhere, it appears that we many of the core technology experts and ideas to hand that will be required to build and run a development molten salt reactor programme here in the UK.

In many peoples view we need to get fourth generation nuclear programmes up and running quickly, if we are to make use of the tacit knowledge and expertise of a wide array of nuclear experts nearing retirement or who have already retired from the nuclear industry.

When I have looked around for suitable sites to host a molten salt reactor programme, one of the possibilities is to re-task the Wylfa Magnox Nuclear site after the existing nuclear reactor is closed at the end of 2014 or 2015. The molten salt reactor building would be the same size or smaller than one of the existing Magnox nuclear reactor buildings at Wylfa.

At the moment my plans are very provisional, but the idea would be to build the development reactor under ONR regulatory supervision from 2017 to 2021 and then operate it until 2025. If these initial development tests and training exercises went well, then funding for a second phase of development work would be sought running from 2025 to 2035. This second phase of development would not necessarily need to be based at Wylfa, especially if the new Horizon ABWR was in the process of coming on line in the mid 2020's. To keep the existing site working and generating some electricity in the period 2015 to 2021 there is the possibility of constructing a biomass/coal/gas boiler to keep at least one of the steam turbine generator sets running for peaking power generation purposes.

The idea would be to employ many of the people who currently work at the existing Wylfa nuclear plant, and to help train people up that will later be needed to operate the new Horizon Power Reactors if they are built. There may be lots of simple reasons why such a plan can't happen, so I am just sending this email out with the aim of starting a conversation on this.

Going to a green field site would potentially involve a much more lengthy and extended planning process and there would be no guarantee of an existing experienced work force being on tap locally.

Would you be willing to co-operate with a feasibility study into this? The operation of the site and development reactor to be run by a not-for-profit company and that the site be handed back to the NDA in 2025 (or if phase 2 goes ahead at Wylfa in 2035).

Best Regards,

James Arathoon MIET


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James Arathoon
 03 December 2013 05:08 PM
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jarathoon

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Originally posted by: kengreen

I wish I possessed your powers of dreaming. Instead I am lumbered with the real problem which lies in our ever-increasing need for electrical energy; it doesn't matter at all what it costs? We either stump up the money or start the preparation of mass graves!



It does matter a great deal what electrical energy costs, especially for those people who depend on it for their heating, aswell as lighting etc.

We can't spent 10 to 15 years building nuclear power stations, if too many young people want to work for an average of 3 to 5 years before changing jobs. We won't be able to build enough nuclear power stations if they are all going to take 10-15 years to build.

There are many logistical elements to consider in any engineering plan that are more or less independent of the amount of money that can be thrown at the particular problem. (e.g. the time needed to train someone up for a particular job, depends on complexity of the tasks they undertake, not on the pay rate. )

You could turn your word-tsunami onto the real problem namely why do we have to balance everything against the purely-fictional commodity known as money? Money represents only the "wealth" which is generated by our labour - oh dear, what have I said?? ! ...


We only have finite engineering and economic resources to hand at any given time and choices must be made. Preparing the ground to make a good choice and then performing the actual act of choosing between alternatives, depends more on imagination, knowledge and the power to dream, than it does on money.

Large amounts of money is required for implementation phase of any plan - I haven't got that far yet.

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James Arathoon
 04 December 2013 01:51 AM
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kengreen

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But James,

We have endless supplies of money; all that we have to do, and this applies equally to energy, is to stop wasting it and, as a backup, to start wearing out our printing presses?

We have a very significant source of saving both money and energy in that hideous joke called the "European Parliament" and it is not necessary to go looking far afield to find others most of whom hide behind the word "politicians".

Ken Green
 05 December 2013 01:16 PM
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jarathoon

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The governments proposed third generation nuclear at any cost programme has significant problems that cannot be fixed by drowning them in cash.

In the document "Nuclear Energy Research and Development Roadmap: Future Pathways" here

The closed fuel cycle pathway (16GW to 75GW) (which includes high burn up molten salt reactors) will develop in the following way

Phase 1: 2014 - 2020 Fast Reactor and Fuel Cycle Concept Evaluation & Selection
2020 - 2025 Concept Design
2025 - 2030 Detailed Design
2030 - 2040 Build
2040 Onwards - Operation

Well it is 2013 and the molten salt development groups have clearly already evaluated and selected the pathway. (The only other proposed Generation IV pathway for the UK is for us to host the development of the GE-Hitachi PRISM Molten Metal Sodium Reactor dedicated to plutonium burning, along with expensive fuel cycle plants dedicated to initial plutonium fuel fabrication and then used fuel handing and recycling).

Molten salt reactor proponents and molten sodium reactor proponents have already made their selection. The difference is that we are on the energy generation pathway and they are not.

Therefore in terms Generation IV fast/thermal reactors for energy generation, Molten Salt Reactors are the only game in town here in the UK for both electrical and process energy generation.

The concept design process in terms of new molten salt reactors is now well underway, and significant progress on this front is now starting to be made as a wider group of researchers and industrialists start to get involved.

According to my plan for Wylfa we now have four years to start converting these conceptual developments into a detailed design for a programme of nuclear development and training work to be carried out between 2017 and 2025.

In the governments pathway we get to complete a first 4 year programme of work on an operating Generation IV test reactor in 2044 (in 31 years time) Therefore young engineers working on the project now, would have to be under 35 years of age to see this first phase of the project through to completion.

This is a major major problem.

The people who have the necessary industrial experience to deliver such a programme are now in their 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's.

Once these people are gone we have to start building up the necessary work experience and vocational skills up from scratch via book work. Books miss out the oral traditions, miss out many of the practical and vocational elements, miss out the tacit and implicit knowledge we all forget we learn over the course of our careers. This is not a realistic proposition.

The timescale over which the government road map for Generation IV nuclear is set to deliver is not credible, because it contains no plausible way to keep and transfer skills from the older generations to the younger generations.

Even the proposed third generation nuclear at any cost have not properly addressed the problem of maintaining and developing nuclear and industrial skills and workforces. There is no way that 10 to 12 third generation nuclear power stations can be built at currently proposed costs and project time spans. If one reactor a year was started from 2015 to 2025 then we have to sink well over £50 billion of investment before the first kWh's of new nuclear energy first start to flow. With project delays and cost increases this could easily rise to between £60 and £80 billion.

At the moment we don't know what 70% of the index linked strike price subsidies for building new nuclear will be used for. All three main political parties are committed to hiding a more detailed budgetary breakdown of the costs until after the contracts have been signed. I asked the Labour shadow minister for Energy at a recent meeting whether this was a sustainable policy. He did not answer my question, but just ended up agreeing with the chairman Andrew Neill that this was indeed Labour Party policy at the moment.

(Remember all the energy intensive industries including iron and steel, and concrete manufacturers don't have to pay the subsidies for new renewable energy and new capacity markets etc, so under current plans all electricity consumers, including the poorest, will be subsiding the third generation at any cost nuclear build programme by the back door.)


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James Arathoon
 06 December 2013 10:31 AM
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jarathoon

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No one from the Anglesey Energy Island Team have not been in contact yet, I will let you all know when they do. However I read today about another area close by with lots of people desperate for jobs and a better vision for the future...


http://www.cambrian-news.co.uk/news/i/36422/

"Calls are being made for Gwynedd Council to build a new nuclear power station in the south of the county. Cllr Jason Humphreys, who represents Porthmadog East on Gwynedd Council, has criticised the council's three-point plan to make the most of Trawsfynydd Power Station over the coming years.

Gwynedd Council announced its strategy for the development site in October which has been put in place to cushion the blow to the local economy following the decommissioning of the power station in 2016."

"Developing the Trawsfynydd Site - a Three Point Strategy"

http://www.gwynedd.gov.uk/gwy_...28&Language=1&p=1&c=1

"Lastly, the strategy looks to make the most of the site's designation as part of Snowdonia Enterprise Zone. Chair of the Snowdonia Enterprise Zone's Board, Dr John Idris Jones confirmed the designation's important role in the development of the site.

He said: "This site, and the wider area, can only be redeveloped to the future if high quality private sector companies wish to locate here. Enterprise Zone status is enabling the thorough analysis of which sectors would find this site most beneficial, which of these would offer the best economic benefit to the region, and what the site requires to enable companies to locate here."

I don't know what "high quality private sector companies" is supposed to mean...presumably that is a choice the Chair of the Snowdonia Enterprise Zone's Board, Dr John Idris Jones, whants to make.



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James Arathoon
 06 December 2013 01:08 PM
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jarathoon

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Please note that there is a...


Wylfa Site Stakeholder Group Meeting on Thursday 23 January 2014

The Wylfa Site Stakeholder Group Annual General Meeting arranged for 12 December has been re-scheduled and will now take place on the 23 January 2014 in the Eleth/Eilian rooms (next to the Wylfa Information Centre) starting at 15:00hrs. Members of the public are welcome to attend.

For further information please contact the secretariat, Karin White, on 01407 73 3952 or email karin.white@magnoxsites.com


http://www.magnoxsites.co.uk/events


I have asked if I can speak at the meeting.

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James Arathoon
 12 December 2013 04:35 PM
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jarathoon

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"Call for Trawsfynydd nuclear jobs to remain after 2016"

"Enterprise Zone chief wants decommissioning work to carry on to stop skilled workers leaving the area"

"THE chairman of an Enterprise Zone has called for hundreds of workers to be kept on at Trawsfynydd beyond 2016 by moving straight into the next phase of decommissioning while more work is done on attracting other industry to the location."


http://www.dailypost.co.uk/bus...-remain-6396266


Better to let the radiation levels to decline, I'm afraid. Why increase the cost and subjsct workers to unnecesssary risk.

Why not engage with my plan for the Wylfa Magnox Site?

"Enterprise Zone chair Mr Jones said: "Currently they are looking at the site being left in 2016, that would affect around 730 workers, a significant number of which live within 20 minutes of the site."

Well Anglesey isn't that far away. In any case

"In response a spokesman from Magnox said: "The timing of decommissioning plans is agreed with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority(NDA) to ensure that public money is spent effectively to reduce hazards across the NDA estate. Magnox has well defined plans to progress decommissioning at all its sites - including Trawsfynydd. We are not currently reconsidering these plans." "

In any case if you read this story in World Nuclear News from 2011 "Final shipment of new Magnox fuel" it seems Magnox Ltd has previously signed agreements with Lloyd's Register Group, giving its staff the opportunity to move on to other decommissioning working for Lloyd's Register Group.

http://www.world-nuclear-news....el-1912114.html


Where that decommissioning work will be I don't know.

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James Arathoon
 12 December 2013 05:25 PM
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jarathoon

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Britain and Canada now have the opportunity to push forward on Generation IV nuclear development together, with expertise provided by both sides and the lead coming from the private sector.

Some parts of a new private sector led (public sector supported) Generation IV nuclear R&D programme could be hosted in Canada, some parts in Britain. An excellent way to begin this would be with some sort of bi-lateral inter-government agreement on nuclear research and development and Generation IV regulatory issues.

In terms of regulation Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the Office for Nuclear Regulation would be encouraged to agree a common regulatory framework in regards to Generation IV nuclear, to avoid firms incurring duplicate costs in terms of regulatory oversight of factory manufactured sub-systems and components.

In terms on publicly supported nuclear research bodies the UK has the NNL and Canada the AECL

Such an agreement would be aimed at getting an initial collaboration started to which private sector companies from other countries could join later.


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James Arathoon
 15 December 2013 07:26 PM
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jarathoon

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I have not heard one word (even in acknowledgement) from the Energy Island Team on Anglesey, since first emailing them two weeks ago. Actually I have not heard one word from anyone living in Wales in the last two weeks, other than my sister who lives in mid-Wales.

I am beginning to think that the political leaders of Wales actually believe that the recently renamed Wylfa Newydd can actually be built and commissioned by 2025, without having any sort of intervening 10 year plan put in place, to maintain nuclear skills. Nuclear workers may just choose to leave the industry following the full closure of the existing Wylfa Magnox Reactors in 2014 or 2015.

Even if thy choose to stay on for decommissioning work their existing skills sets may not be needed or utilised. The NDA themselves admit that future decommissioning work will become more automated and more productive, which will mean less highly trained nuclear staff needed for this decommissioning work over the next 10 years. In any case decommissioning work is not necessarily the best training path for the skilled engineers and technicians needed to operate and maintain a nuclear power plant, so even if new staff get taken on for this work they will not necessarily have the right training for operating a working nuclear power station. 10 years is a long time given the current age distribution of the existing nuclear trained workforce in the UK. [Remember according to government plans roughly four nuclear stations will be starting up at roughly the same time in the mid 2020's, spiriting highly trained and trained workers out of the aether to work in them no doubt.]

Therefore given that I have had absolutely no response from anyone in Wales to my open call for a conversation on this important matter, in spite of the fact that some sort of alternative, perhaps equally expensive, plan will be needed to train the new engineers and technicians. [Perhaps using a mixture of academic theory, computer simulations and nuclear plant mock-ups to do the training instead.] I am not saying that this won't work, it's just that the costs of it must be owned up to, when comparing that plan with my plan].

We shall have to wait and see I suppose, until the Wylfa Stakeholder meeting on 23 January 2014.

My current analysis is...

- Given that the Thatcher Government planned to role out a fleet of 10 new PWR nuclear power stations, including ones called Hinkley Point C and one called Wylfa B, and then only managed to build one at Sizewell B because the plants were not an economically viable proposition.

- Given that the new Generation III plants are even less economically viable that the PWR's and in many respects are much more complex.

- Given that under current plans there is no viable plan to maintain a trained and experienced workforce to run them.

- Given that the EU could rule the subsidy system for new nuclear as illegal under EU state aid rules.

- Given that there is a General Election in less than 2 years time, where the cost of energy will be one of the key election campaign issues.

- Given that new Generation III reactors currently being built in Europe are over budget, with build programmes running years behind schedule (EPR's being built at Olkiluoto and Flamanville), there is absolutely no chance that they can be built without huge public subsidy being applied.

- Given that there is no publicly available evidence that "Nuclear Lessons Learned" from past mistakes, will not be unlearned at the first available opportunity; having to be re-learned in preparation for the next project.

- Given that the old and unhealthy culture of secrecy, combined with incompetence (and on occasion lies and deceit) has not yet been fully purged from the NDA and Sellafield management teams.

- Given that the huge programme of PLEX work needed in France, Ukraine, to a lesser extent in the UK and Russia, may suck in large numbers of nuclear trained staff, particularly in the critical, and resource constrained, smaller nuclear supply chain companies.

According to BusinessWire

"In Europe, the major PLEX markets between 2013 and 2025 are France, Ukraine, the UK and Russia, with market values of $5.2 billion, $3.4 billion, $2.6 billion and $2 billion. Previously, numerous extensions were planned in Europe, but after the Fukushima disaster some countries chose to discontinue their PLEX plans and instead proceed towards developing a nuclear-free energy mix."

- Given that industrial supply chain companies (with aging workforces and other resource constraints) will see nuclear PLEX, decommissioning and waste work as bringing in a more predictable and certain cash flow, and a better investment bet overall, compared with the promised new build work that may never arrive. Existing nuclear supply chain companies may want to prioritise their best people and time into delivering on the nuclear PLEX, decommissioning and waste projects for at least another 10 years.

Incidentally none of the nuclear industry people I meet in private disagree radically with any of what I say above. They just choose for their own reasons not to publicly draw attention to the underlying resource issues, and the other difficulties the new Generation III reactor build program faces.

I personally think there is a very high chance that none of the new Generation III nuclear reactors proposed for the UK will be completed and licensed for operation. There is a long history in the nuclear industry, of nuclear plant starts that never get completed; due to cost escalation problems or changing economic circumstance or a changing regulatory environment. If we want to maintain a nuclear industry in this country, we will have to do things a different way, my way perhaps, if no one can think of any better way.

I also think if EDF/Areva takes on too much work some of the balls it is juggling will drop. Gen III build work may suffer or PLEX work or both. There will inevitably be an increased chance of delays or nuclear accidents in France and elsewhere, as the top heavy age distribution in the nuclear industry begins to bite and experienced staff start leaving in large numbers.

If Welsh politicians decide to ignore my ideas, what is the plan B for England...for example involving the Hartlepool AGR site.

Such a plan B would inevitably be much delayed compared with my Wylfa plan. At the moment the Hartlepool AGR is due to close in 2019, but EDF might decide to apply for a licence extension to run the plant until 2023, like some of the other AGR's it runs. In the short term EDF will want to keep up the hard sell up for the time being in regards to the ridiculously expensive new Gen III EPR reactors it wants to build in the UK; despite the fact this is not in their long term strategic interests.

I don't a plan B will work unless the Hartlepool AGR is nationalised to meet the needs of the programme prior to 2019.


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James Arathoon
 15 December 2013 07:32 PM
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jarathoon

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The above should read...

I personally think, given all this, there is a very high chance that none of the new Generation III nuclear reactors proposed for the UK will be completed and licensed for operation.

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James Arathoon
 02 April 2014 11:45 AM
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jarathoon

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Email Sent to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) on 28th March 2014 is below in italics. I am reminded about this, as news comes of potential layoffs of nuclear workers at the Springfields plant near Preston...My plan for Wylfa Magnox Life extension will help protect jobs at the Springfields plant, currently being run by Westinghouse under contract from the NDA. It will also help train up a new generation of British Nuclear Engineers and well as providing a platform for a Generation IV small modular reactor development programme here in the UK.

http://www.lep.co.uk/news/busi...obs-at-risk-1-6533797




Dear XXXX,

As you know I have tried to start a conversation on the future of the Wylfa Magnox Nuclear Station, and have not yet received feedback or some sort of policy position statement from the NDA or Magnox Sites on this matter. DECC have informed me that the NDA has a duty to allow its assets to be used in support of the UK's strategic needs and to give enhanced value for money for the UK tax payer. The statement Ross Lewis of DECC sent to me is attached and I remind the NDA of it.

Can you send me details of any recent conversations you have had with DECC in regard to a possible 5 year life extension of the Wylfa Magnox Nuclear Reactor 1, or any other ideas you consider worthy of public attention in regards to leveraging existing assets within the NDA's ownership and control to help and support a future Generation IV nuclear research and development effort.

I understand from a brief conversation at a recent Nuclear Event that there may be old engineering and logistical plans drawn up in the 1980's/1990's to convert Magnox Stations to use AGR stainless steel fuel pins. Does such documentation exist and do you still hold the documents in archive relating to these previous engineering design efforts in regard to Wylfa itself or one of the other Magnox reactors? If so, can you send me a list of the documents that you hold (pertinent to this topic) and details of how they might be accessed.

If the NDA believe that there is absolutely no realistic possibility of life extending Wylfa Magnox Nuclear Station for a further 5 years say, by converting it to use AGR style fuel pins, then what other options would the NDA consider as a feasible alternative, e.g. modifications to the Hartlepool AGR reactor to allow selected fuel channels to be used for new nuclear materials research. Does the NDA employ anyone at the Springfields Nuclear facility in Preston (independent of the commercial site manager
Westinghouse) that could comment on such matters?

I am aware the UK has bought some access to the Jules Horowitz research reactor in southern France, however this facility may not be best suited to high throughput early phase material elimination testing across whole classes of new modern materials (such as the wide variety of composite ceramics now becoming available). Research into these new composites may well benefit the NDA in terms of improvements to existing liquid and solid nuclear waste storage technologies. Do you have any thoughts or comments to make on this?

Thank you for your help with this and my previous enquires.

Best Regards,

James Arathoon


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James Arathoon
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