Milestone in restoration of Zorita plant site

22 September 2023

Work to fill in the hole left following the demolition of the containment building of the José Cabrera nuclear power plant has been completed, Spanish decommissioning and waste management firm Enresa announced. The plant - also known as Zorita - is the first to be fully dismantled in Spain.

The site of the plant's former containment building (Image: Enresa)

The single-loop pressurised water reactor at the José Cabrera nuclear power plant, in the central municipality of Guadalajara, operated from 1968 until 2006 when it was closed by ministerial order. Although small by today's standards at 142 MWe, the plant nevertheless supplied more than 75% of Guadalajara's power requirements.

Pre-dismantling activities - carried out between 2006 and 2009 under the responsibility of the facility's operator, Union Fenosa - consisted mainly of the management of used fuel and the conditioning of operational waste.

Soil being placed within the pit (Image: Enresa)

After the completion of pre-dismantling activities and the corresponding ministerial authorisation of 11 February 2010, ownership of the José Cabrera nuclear power plant was transferred to Enresa for decommissioning.

In 2010 Westinghouse - which originally supplied the reactor - won a contract from Enresa to dismantle the reactor vessel internals. This was followed by another contract in 2013 to dismantle the reactor pressure vessel.

The dismantling of the plant's containment building began in November 2019 with the first section of the containment dome - measuring 8 metres in diameter, 16 millimetres thick and weighing 5.2 tonnes - being cut and removed.

Working nearing completion to level the ground (Image: Enresa)

Enresa said a total of 9500 cubic metres of selected soil has now been used to fill the void that remained following the complete dismantling of the containment building. This, it said, involved the loading and unloading of 850 trucks. During the process, the corresponding humidity, density and degree of compaction tests were carried out, with satisfactory results.

The demolition of the last remaining large building at the plant, the turbine building - 30 metres in height and made of reinforced concrete - was completed in June last year.

In order to restore the site to its initial state, the Restoration Plan - which was approved by Spain's Nuclear Safety Council - will ensure that the land to be released is free of residual radioactivity. During this final phase, site clean-up and final characterisation will be carried out before application is made for the declaration of decommissioning, with the aim of returning the site to its owner.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News