UK: Dry Fuel Store At Sizewell B Nuclear Power Station

Last Updated: 2 October 2013
Article by Paul Zyda

Dry Fuel Store At Sizewell B Nuclear Power StationThe UK's first Dry Fuel Store is currently under construction at Sizewell B nuclear power station, Leiston, Suffolk. Paul Zyda, a nuclear planning and environmental lawyer, describes the consenting journey and experiences gained in advising on this milestone project from initial design, to achievement of a grant by the Secretary of State of planning permission, and recent commencement of construction.

Sizewell B (SZB) is home to the most recently constructed nuclear power station in the UK. It is at the vanguard of UK nuclear power station design. The station will soon be home to the UK's first 'dry' store for spent nuclear fuel, the Dry Fuel Store (DFS) which received consent in July 2011 and is currently under construction. The DFS is required to enable the continued operation of SZB by making provision on site for the storage of spent nuclear fuel from 2015; the existing 'wet' storage facilities reach capacity soon after. Dry fuel storage is a mature technology, tried and tested all over the world. As part of this process the spent fuel is placed within a welded metal canister, cleaned and then placed within a large concrete cask. These casks are then stored in the DFS. The DFS will store spent nuclear fuel for the lifetime of the SZB power station, which is due to be decommissioned in 2035.

Section 36 Consent

In July 2011, the Secretary of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change granted a section 36 consent and deemed grant of planning permission for the DFS.

Impact on Amenity and Accessibility

During the application process, a concern raised by the local planning authority related to the potential impact of the DFS on the surrounding area. The DFS may be required to store spent fuel beyond the predicted timescale for the decommissioning of the Sizewell B site and thus the local area would have to wait longer to realise the benefits of a fully decommissioned and restored site, which is surrounded by an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty ('AONB').

To offset any potential impact caused by the delay of the release of the part of SZB EDF Energy, Suffolk County Council and Suffolk Coastal District Council entered into a legal agreement, to establish an Amenity and Accessibility Fund Group. The Fund, which we devised, is formed by officers from each Council, EDF and AONB representatives. The Fund Group identify projects to improve the amenity and accessibility of the AONB and Heritage Coast. EDF have made an initial payment to the Fund of £120,000, and will make 60 further annual payments to the fund of £20,000.

Projects that sought AAFG funding included, among others, works to improve the visual appearance of the area and to conserve and enhance the area's natural beauty. Some projects that were considered by the AAFG included a Virtual Tourism Information centre app by The Suffolk Coast Limited and a new nature trail through the Sizewell Hall wood for children and guests by the Sizewell Hall charity.

Moving from planning to construction

Having obtained planning permission, construction work could not commence until the local planning authority had approved various schemes and details submitted for approval under 16 planning conditions. These applications were drafted to comply with new European EIA law and were the first such applications in the UK! As part of the application process, EDF undertook public consultation. Suffolk Coastal District Council granted approval in July 2012.

Multi Stage (EIA) Consenting

As this was a UK first, there were several challenges along the road to commencement of construction including a need to secure approval for design changes. To achieve the necessary approval, EDF adopted a multi stage consenting process, which includes public consultation. The applications were supported by new or newly identifiable environmental information, consistent with the requirements of European and UK EIA Law. With approval of the design changes, EDF gave Suffolk Coastal District Council notice in January 2013, and soon after commenced the permitted preliminary works including site clearance, erection of temporary fencing and provision of a contractors' laydown area.

Highway Works

EDF have spent £192,000 on improving roads on the main highway access route between Yoxford and the Sizewell B station. The highway works have been carried out by Suffolk County Council and are designed to reduce potential vibration and noise impacts.

Main Development

The main development comprises the construction of the Dry Fuel Store and Component Store buildings. To enable EDF to undertake the main development two further multi-stage applications were submitted to the local planning authority, statutory consultees and members of the public. These final applications related to design changes and 'finish' of external materials. In July, Suffolk Coastal District Council granted approval and EDF is now preparing to commence the Main Development.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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