CALLS are growing to make Calder Hall the first nuclear reactor in the UK to be decommissioned.

Nuclear officials say that if decommissioning is delayed, the asbestos in the reactor will pose a risk to workers, while maintenance costs will become ‘unsupportable’.

Council bosses are ramping up the pressure on the Government to fast-track the dismantling of the world’s oldest industrial-scale nuclear power station based at Sellafield.

The authority’s nuclear board will be asked today to delegate authority to council chief executive Pat Graham and the nuclear portfolio-holder councillor David Moore to develop a detailed case for accelerated decommissioning.

Councillors agreed at the end of last year that the UK’s first industrial-scale power station to be built should also be the first to be cleaned up.

Calder Hall is one of 11 reactor sites around the country and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is now reviewing the “timing and sequence” of its nationwide clean-up operation.

At present the defuelling of Calder Hall is due to be finished in 2019/20, and would not enter a care and maintenance (C&M) status until 2034. The argument for tackling the Sellafield-based reactor first includes the continuing risk it poses to workers and the public.

The report said: “As the oldest Magnox reactor, the deterioration of the building fabric and the potential for significant quantities of asbestos to be present pose risk to workers. The cost borne by the taxpayer associated with maintaining the building in a safe state for a long period of care and maintenance could be significant and could increase over time to meet future regulatory requirement.”

The report concludes that the reactor could deteriorate to the point that the cost of keeping it compliant with environmental regulations becomes “unsupportable”.

Because there are already waste stores and treatment facilities on Sellafield, decommissioning could involve “significantly fewer” off-site transports than some of the other Magnox sites dotted around the country.

The accelerated clean-up of Calder Hall could also create jobs to offset some of the 3,000 “surplus roles” expected at Sellafield over the next four to five years.

The skills and technologies learned from work on Calder Hall could then allow nuclear workers to lead the way in the decommissioning of other reactor sites across Britain as well as internationally.

Copeland now has the highest density of nuclear skills and expertise centred around Sellafield, with around 30 per cent of the UK’s nuclear workforce based in Cumbria.

Calder Hall was first connected to the grid on August 27 1956 and officially opened by the Queen in 1956 and the station closed in 2003. to become the world’s first power station to

generate electricity on an industrial scale from nuclear energy.

When the station closed on March 31 2003, The first reactor had been in use for nearly 47 years.