THE SITE of the former nuclear power plant in Berkeley reached a major milestone this month when the first package of nuclear waste was placed inside the newly-constructed interim storage facility (ISF).

The ISF is the largest of its kind in the UK, with a footprint the size of a football pitch.

Once decommissioning is complete it will hold around 850 waste packages from Berkeley where they will be held in interim storage until a national disposal facility becomes available.

The intermediate level waste, which was generated while the site was operational, is safely stored inside a self-shielded cast iron container.

The decommissioning programme at Berkeley is well under way and each box of waste that is retrieved and stored in the ISF is a step closer to care and maintenance, which is expected in 2021.

Site director Steve McNally said it was a huge achievement and a fitting end to a successful year.

“It’s a great reward for the effort and dedication the team has shown and provides momentum for a new year of safe delivery,” he said.

In 2010, Berkeley was the first Magnox site to place its two reactors into safestore.

Dr Brian Burnett is the head of programmes at the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), which owns Berkeley site, and he said the focus now is on retrieving, packaging and storing the waste on site to enable the power station to enter the care and maintenance stage.

“This is an important step on that path and I commend Magnox on its achievements.”

The NDA is considering sending 142 containers from Oldbury to the Berkeley storage facility by lorry.

A national geological disposal facility is expected to be built by 2040 but until then, to reduce the cost associated with the construction of temporary storage plants, the agency is proposing to keep the waste in Berkeley.

If stored at the newly-constructed Interim Storage Facility (ISF), it would require 100 lorry trips over seven years, expected to be done outside of peak times.

The move is favoured because it is thought building a news storage facility at Oldbury would cost around £15million and, if the plans get the green light, the nuclear waste would start moving sometime in 2017.

With the consultation period now over, the NDA is expected to make a decision by the Summer.

Berkeley Nuclear Power Station was the first nuclear plant to begin decommissioning in the country after it stopped generating in 1989 and is expected to be completed by 2079.