24 Oct 2018

Sizewell Visit

Sizewell Visit

On Tuesday 23rd October, a slightly chilly but beautiful morning, 30 RHYC/CA  members were waiting in the RHYC car park for a coach, all dressed correctly; substantial shoes or trainers to cover the whole foot, socks to cover the ankle, long trousers, a long sleeved top and a coat as per the promulgated instructions. Shortly after 0830 hrs, they boarded the slightly late vehicle, picked up another 6 at Woodbridge then headed off on a visit to Sizewell B power station, a trip organised by Mike Bell.  We were making good time along the narrow Suffolk roads and at 0945 hrs, we picked up the signs for Sizewell. I was scanning the countryside for the iconic dome so associated with the power station and as we turned into a small road at 0950 hrs it suddenly became visible, looking a lot less impressive from this perspective than I thought it would. At 0955 hrs, we turned left at the Vulcan arms pub (I have no idea what the connection is) and left the winding roads, skirting the perimeter of the site towards the visitors centre, arriving just before 1000 hrs. We were quickly split into 6 pre-organised groups of 6 where, seated at tables, we filled in consent forms and were issued with PPE; hard hat, ear defenders, goggles, gloves and a high vis jacket before being given a safety brief and watching a short information film. This gave a simplified overview of how it all works. It all looked very simple in theory but later when we saw it for real, it was anything but simple! At 1055 hrs we left the visitors centre and made our way to security. The staff there quickly and efficiently checked us in and we started our tour. Our leader was Elizabeth Berry and this very knowledgeable lady showed us all over the site, giving us great detail on the way. 

Our first stop was all the admin buildings. Nothing out of the ordinary here, so into the auxiliary generators. We didn’t actually see these huge engines but we stood outside the enormous building and Elizabeth explained that in the event of the reactor tripping out, these would kick in and allow the pumps to continue to cool over a period of about 4 days. There’s enough fuel in separate tanks (to reduce the risk of contamination) to last much longer than that. The two generators are more than the wing span of a jumbo jet apart, so operations can continue in the event of a large aircraft crashing into the site. The many air intakes face all directions  to allow them to run in the event of a dust cloud, bird strikes or similar incidents that would otherwise stop them running. You can get the idea that the all systems are designed with many back ups and back ups to the back ups!
We were then told about the waste facility. They store low level & medium level waste in a building and efforts are made to minimise this. High level waste is also stored elsewhere onsite as there is currently no re-processing available for this type of system anywhere in the U.K. It is hoped that future technology will allow this spent fuel to be re-processed & re-used. 
Then we went into the massive turbine hall. This houses two turbines, TG1 & TG2, which we freely walked around. The shafts spin at around 3000 rpm and the tips of blades travel at twice the speed of sound!
It was then onto the seawater pump house. This is where the sea water comes in for cooling. For me, it was very interesting to see the massive wheels which filter the water as I used to regularly sail very close to the Bradwell intake and often wondered  what was behind it. This is the only facility in the U.K. that puts back the live fish that are pulled in, although when we were there Seafas, a department of the environment agency, were in attendance to monitor the fish. This happens about every fortnight and these fish don’t survive. After this, we were shown the back up to this system which is a unique installation. If the intake gets clogged or the pumps fail, the hot water can be diverted to a huge fan room, where the roof opens and air cools the water. 
Finally, we went past the fire station which houses a three quarter size fire appliance. Sadly, we were unable to see this as it is not permanently crewed but crewed by volunteers from on site if needed. It’s interesting to note that all water (apart from the sea water) is purified water, purified on site by their plant. Even the firefighting water and toilets use this!
It was then back to the visitor centre to fill the evaluation forms over a coffee. We then left at about 1315 hrs and headed over to Southwold for a a couple of hours for a look round and a bite to eat. 

Overall it was a very interesting visit which I can thoroughly recommend. 

Kathryn Deaton