Magnox, the firm that runs Hinkley Point A near Burnham-On-Sea, announced on Monday (May 23rd) that it plans to release radioactive gas and liquid into the Bristol Channel as part of decommissioning work.
However, the firm says there will be no risk to public health or the environment, even though a nuclear expert has questioned the controls in place.
Hinkley A started decommissioning ten years ago and is working on a system to put ‘intermediate’ waste into vats of acid to reduce it down.
Magnox says the process of dissolving the materials in acid will give off gas and produce liquid that is radioactive, however those releases will be very low and cause no harm.
It added that the process has been used by nuclear power stations elsewhere and would not start for at least another four years.
However, John Large, a nuclear consultant who has worked with power companies and Greenpeace, told the BBC: “If you look at the history and the development of the British nuclear industry, and look at the calamity that was caused by radioactive discharges around Sellafield, if the past practice is a sign I don’t think sufficient guards and controls will be in place at this station.”
But Magnox says that before its process begins, it will need approval from the Environment Agency and the Office for Nuclear Regulation. The company will also have to apply for permission to build a new building.
Colin Patchett, deputy chief inspector at the Office for Nuclear Regulation, added: “Our mission is to protect people and society from the hazards of the nuclear industry and it’s up to Magnox to prove to us that it is safe to carry out these activities.”
Hinkley Point currently has one working nuclear power station. EDF Energy wants to build another reactor at the site.