A series of large, metal units housing the equipment needed to empty one of the world’s oldest nuclear waste stores at Sellafield Nuclear site has been hoisted into position in preparation for the first retrieval operation.
The lifting operation in the tightly confined space around the Pile Fuel Cladding Silo at Sellafield marks the latest phase of one of the most challenging nuclear decommissioning projects ever undertaken in the UK.
The modules fit together to form the process needed to safely remove solid radioactive waste from the 18-metre high ‘locked vault’ which was built with no thought of ever being emptied in the dawn of Britain’s atomic age in the early 1950s.
The modules were manufactured and tested at Rosyth in Scotland before being transported to Sellafield where a 500-tonne crane lifted them into position on a platform 15 metres above the ground.
The first of the units, known as the waste container transfer area, was lifted into place adjacent to compartment five where the first retrieval is due to take place.
It was used to guide the positioning of the other eight modules over several weeks.
The work is being carried out by Bechtel Cavendish Nuclear Solutions, a US-UK joint venture appointed by Sellafield Ltd in 2011 to design, manufacture, test and install the machinery needed to empty the silo.
After successfully installing a series of heavyweight doors and cutting open the side of each compartment in 2017, BCNS focussed on installing the retrievals equipment.
Both the doors and the retrieval modules were manufactured by Babcock at Rosyth.
Once successfully installed and commissioned, the project will carry out a demonstration retrieval later this year prior to beginning full recovery operations in 2020.
This is significantly ahead of the agreed site schedule and reflects the effort of Sellafield Ltd and the BCNS team to simplify and de-risk the project using commercially available off-the-shelf technology wherever possible.
“Cavendish Nuclear is committed to driving down the cost of decommissioning by delivering innovative nuclear clean-up solutions that are faster, safer and more economical,” said Paul Smith, Managing Director of Nuclear Services at Cavendish Nuclear.
“Our collaboration with Bechtel and Sellafield Ltd on a project of a strategic national importance is set to give Sellafield the tools it needs to accelerate hazard reduction at the site.”