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Facts and figures for Hinkley Point

By Wells Journal  |  Posted: December 06, 2012

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Hinkley Point is situated on the Severn Estuary and is about eight miles from Bridgwater and the M5.

The 19 hectare site now known as Hinkley Point A was opened in 1965 and was closed in 2000. Work is ongoing on the decommissioning of the nuclear reactor but the site is not expected to be finally cleared until sometime between 2080-2090.

Two years after Hinkley Point A started delivery electricity, work began on the building of Hinkley Point B which finally opened in 1976. The two reactor site is due to stop producing energy in 2016 but that could be delayed. It currently runs at about 70 per cent of its output. It is still capable of supplying 1.5 million homes.

Hinkley Point C is proposed to be two European pressurised water reactors (EPR), where water pumped through the reactor is heated from the energy generated by the fission of atoms. The heated water (kept under pressure to prevent it boiling) flows to a heat exchanger, is transferred to thermal energy and onto a secondary system where steam is generated, running huge turbines.

The new reactors would have the capacity to generate about 3,300 megawatts of electricity: enough electricity for about 5 million homes, approximately twice the number of properties found in the South West.

The likely impact of radiation discharge from Hinkley Point C on a member of a local farming family has been estimated by EDF experts to be the equivalent of undergoing one or two dental X-rays per year.

Maps submitted with the application for Hinkley Point C show the site is surrounded by national sites of special scientific interest, an international special area of conservation, near to wetlands declared of international importance by the Ramsar Convention and close to national nature reserves and areas of outstanding natural beauty.

Radioactive waste, described as low-level, will be discharged into the Severn Estuary at the end of a 2km tunnel that will be constructed under the sea bed. Maps indicate the outlet tunnel will be built in a north westerly direction from Hinkley Point C.

It has been estimated that the waste leaving the tunnel is likely to be of a temperature as high as 33 degrees centigrade in the summer months, falling to 21 degrees centigrade in the winter.

Low-level radioactive gases will be expelled into the atmosphere from at least three chimney stacks.

Much of the solid waste produced at Hinkley Point C is described in reports as disposable. From sludge, to filters, protection equipment and clothing to tools, much of the lower level radioactive waste will be packaged into 200 litre drums. Depending on the level of radioactivity, some will go into plastic drums and be incinerated. Others will be packed into drums constructed from a mixture of Portland cement and blast furnace slag, some of which will be transferred to waste facilities elsewhere in England. Others will go to special landfill sites.

Spent fuel rods will be treated and then stored on site - perhaps for decades - until a national disposal facility is opened that can deal with such materials.

Experts have examined four eco-systems surrounding Hinkley Point to analyse the possible environmental impact of radioactivity. These include terrestrial: an area close to the site that could be impacted by gas discharges into the atmosphere; marine: Bridgwater Bay and its associated mudflats that could be impacted by liquid discharge into the sea; coastal: Bridgwater Bay and associated mudflats that could be impacted by the liquid discharges and gas discharges to the atmosphere; freshwater: freshwater pond fed by run-off from the terrestrial habitat. Experts on behalf of EDF Energy concluded that the impact would be very low for all the different habitats.

So far 1,197 representations for and against Hinkley Point C have been made from local councils, residents close to the site and further away, MPs, campaigners, environmentalists, representative groups and companies.

The National Infrastructure Planning panel concluded examining evidence about the plan in September. The panel has until December 21 to submit to the Secretary of State its findings and recommendations.

And after that the secretary of State has until March 21 to give the final say and decide whether to grant or refuse consent for the two-reactors.

If the plans get the go-ahead at least 5,000 Somerset people are expected to be employed during the construction period of Hinkley Point C and, once built, it is estimated that 900 people will work at the site during its 60 years of operation.

EDF Energy has put together a package of measures targeting community well-being, education, employment and skills to go alongside the bid and say that the new power plant will provide increased spending in the local economy.

If permissions are given in the spring then Hinkley Point C could be operational in the early 2020s.

Emma Frampton

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