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Major steps forward in Sellafield’s Major Permit Review

Sellafield site

Following a major review by the Environment Agency of Sellafield Ltd’s Radioactive Substances Activities (RSA) permit, a new permit variation comes into force tomorrow.

The permit controls the receipt and disposal of radioactive waste for the Sellafield site and imposes conditions and limits on discharges. It allows the site to operate facilities, make discharges to sea and air and dispose of solid waste.

The Sellafield site has historically reprocessed nuclear fuel in its THORP and Magnox reprocessing plants. However, fuel reprocessing came to an end at THORP in November 2018 and Magnox reprocessing is planned to end in 2021. This will mean that the site will see a significant reduction in radioactive discharges to the environment.

As a result of these changes Sellafield Ltd’s Radioactive Substances Activities (RSA) permit needed to be updated to take into account the forecast reductions in radioactive discharges, including revised, lower discharge limits.

Sellafield Ltd submitted an application for a RSA permit variation in October 2018.  The Environment Agency ran a consultation on this application and another on the draft decision in late 2019 and reached a final decision on this application and issued the permit variation to Sellafield Ltd on 27 February 2020. This permit variation was due to come into effect on 1 April 2020, however as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Sellafield Ltd was not able to make the changes required to implement the variation on that date and a new date of 1 October was established and the permit variations will come into force then.

This variation is the most significant review of the Sellafield Ltd RSA permit since the early 2000s and marks a new beginning for the site as it is now on the path to changing the focus from reprocessing to decommissioning.

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