The cost of building facilities to store radioactive nuclear waste could be cut by “hundreds of millions of pounds”.
New research, which studied intermediate level waste (ILW) at one of Sellafield power station’s stores, found “previously unknown information about the material’s long term behaviour”.
According to scientists, a 22-step mechanical treatment and process was thought necessary to manage and dispose of ILW stored in storage sites built more than 50 years ago.
The latest study has however found that theory could be replaced with an alternative three-step solution, speeding up the decommissioning process and providing “huge savings to the taxpayer”.
According to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), the discovery is a “breakthrough” in the management of nuclear waste.
Adrian Simper, NDA’s Strategy and Technology Director said: “This research has delivered the underpinning to what could be a paradigm shift in the management of nuclear waste. Having a greater understanding of the long term behaviour of this material allows us to design a truly fit-for-purpose approach to its management and disposal.
“To be able to deliver a technical solution to historic ILW at Sellafield, which not only offers a safe and secure route but also opens up the possibility of a quicker and cheaper alternative to current technology, is a genuinely exciting development.”
The four-study was led by the NDA, Sellafield and the National Nuclear Laboratory with academics from the universities of Bristol, Leeds and London South Bank.