HSE publishes criteria on ‘no danger’ for decommissioning

Moves to decommission Britain's ageing nuclear reactors have come another step closer as the Health and Safety Executive has published its criteria for assessing what levels of radiation constitute 'no danger'.

HSE believes the most helpful way to define ‘no danger’ is to present it in terms of an assessed numerical risk to human life, rather than to use phrases such as ‘very low risk.’

As a result, the policy statement, ‘HSE Criterion for Delicensing Nuclear Sites’, defines the requirement for establishing ‘no danger’ when considering a delicensing application to be: “A demonstration that any residual radioactivity, above background activity, which remains on the site, which may or may not have arisen from licensable activities, will lead to a risk of death to an individual using the site for any reasonably foreseeable purpose, of no greater than one in a million per year.”

It is expected that there will be a rapid increase in requests for delicensing as, last week, Sir Anthony Cleaver, chairman of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority said he would like to see the ageing Magnox reactors decommissioned over the next 25 years, not 125 as previously planned, admitting that the cost of doing so is likely to increase by around £8 billion to £56 billion (see related story).

This will be paid for by the taxpayer, causing consternation among conservationists and green groups who see nuclear as little more than an expensive liability.

Reports earlier this week suggest that the contract for decommissioning will go to an American firm. The Observer states that British Nuclear Group, the company that currently dismantles old atomic sites in the UK, is set to sign a deal with US engineering firm Jacobs to carry out the decommissioning.

This could even be a pre-cursor to the eventual takeover of BNG by a US firm, the report suggests.

David Hopkins

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