News story

Divers clean up ponds at nuclear site in Kent

For the first time in the UK, divers are being used to clean up former cooling ponds in a safe, environmentally beneficial way.

Divers at Dungeness A
Divers at Dungeness A

Magnox Ltd has identified a host of safety and environmental benefits from using divers to clean up ponds at Dungeness A site in Kent. These ponds contain “skips” that previously stored used nuclear fuel. The divers will cut the skips up underwater during a ground-breaking new process.

The water in the ponds will act as additional radiation protection for the divers who will also be subject to stringent health and safety measures and monitoring before, during and after their dives.

This new technique benefits the environment because cutting the skips up after removal from the ponds would have required additional measures to prevent potential airborne contamination.

During electricity generation, the ponds were used to store used nuclear fuel in skips before it was sent off site for reprocessing. The site has been fuel free for over 4 years but the skips, which are classed as intermediate level waste, need to be safely disposed of.

John Clarke, NDA’s Chief Executive, said:

We always encourage our contractors to adopt the highest standards of safety, security and environmental responsibility. This work by Magnox Ltd shows that they are making real progress in clearing the ponds at Dungeness, in a way that is not only safe for the environment, but is also saving time and money.

Dungeness A Site Closure Director, Paul Wilkinson, said:

The use of divers was a change in our way of working. We have successfully shown through trials that this work can be carried out safely and we can now make good progress in the clean-up of the cooling ponds.

Once cut up, the skips will be stored in approved waste containers in a shielded storage area on site before they are packaged for interim storage.

During the work an additional 20 tonnes of pond furniture, including framework and machinery, classed as low level waste will be removed and cut up before being disposed of at the Low Level Waste Repository in West Cumbria.

The learning from the work, expected to be completed in early 2017, at Dungeness A Site, will be passed on to other Magnox sites where similar work will be carried out. Sizewell A Site is the next destination where this approach might work.

Find out more about Dungeness A site

Find out more about how we manage radioactive waste

Published 25 October 2016