CONSTRUCTION has started on the first new permanent facility to be built at the decommissioned Winfrith Atomic Energy site for 20 years.

A 'breaking ground' ceremony has been held at Winfrith's Tradebe Inutec site, which it officially acquired at the former nuclear plant last February.

Radioactive waste treatment and recycling specialist Tradebe Inutec wants to build a specialist nuclear waste management facility at Winfrith.

Last February the Echo reported how chief nuclear inspector Mark Foy had awarded Inutec Limited, which trades as Tradebe Inutec, a nuclear licence – the first granted by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) to an operating facility for 15 years.

Chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association Tom Greatrex and Tradebe Inutec’s managing director Brian Mulholland led the breaking ground ceremony.

Mr Mulholland said: "I’m delighted to get this important project running.

"When complete, it will give our clients additional options for cost-effective, offsite treatment of their LLW (low-level waste) and borderline ILW (intermediate-level waste) waste. It is another demonstration of our commitment to support the UK’s decommissioning mission.”

According to the UK Radioactive Waste Inventory, low-level waste (LLW) contains, unsurprisingly, relatively low levels of radioactivity. While the majority of LLW comes from the operation and decommissioning of nuclear facilities, smaller amounts of LLW can come from hospitals and universities.

Intermediate level waste (ILW) exceeds the upper boundaries for LLW but does not generate a significant amount of heat, unlike higher levels of nuclear waste.

Tradebe Inutec's new 700-metres square building is due to be commissioned this summer.

Mr Greatrex said: "It is great to be witness to a moment that I know will put in motion very real and direct benefits to nearby communities.

"This kind of investment brings prosperity, building on the 60,000 jobs the sector already employs here in the UK.

"It serves as another reminder that we are innovators in advanced manufacturing and decommissioning.

"I look forward to the subsequent steps we will see at Tradebe Inutec’s Winfrith site.”

Until last February Tradebe had operated as a tenant of Magnox under their nuclear licence.

The existing Magnox Limited Winfrith licence was revoked and re-licensed to account for last year's changes.

Tradebe initially applied for the nuclear licence in April 2016.

Historically, Winfrith was used for research and development within the nuclear industry.

Work at Winfrith supported research at Harwell in Oxfordshire and, during its heyday, there were 2,000 people working there, building and testing reactor designs and testing materials inside them. The last reactor was shut down in 1995.

Today it is being decommissioned, demolished and the land returned to its natural state.

Tradebe Inutec will be handling nuclear waste from Winfrith and from elsewhere.