Nuclear waste ready to be removed from Sellafield’s ‘locked vault’

The 70-year old Pile Fuel Cladding Silo was originally designed to be sealed forever

Festival Net Zero 2021

Engineers have installed machinery to scoop up and remove waste from one of Europe’s most hazardous nuclear buildings in the UK.

The 70-year old Pile Fuel Cladding Silo was originally designed to be permanently sealed, which meant innovative ways of accessing the nuclear waste and removing it had to be developed.

Sellafield says the retrieval equipment is contained in nine giant modules which have been lifted into place on top of a modern “superstructure” built on the side of the building.

It expects to start waste retrieval trials later this year, moving into larger scale removal in 2020.

The work is being carried out in collaboration with Bechtel Cavendish Nuclear Solutions, a US-UK joint venture appointed by Sellafield Ltd to help design, manufacture, test and install the machinery needed to empty the silo.

The equipment has been trialled at Rosyth, Scotland at a mock-up model of the silo – it took 18 months to design and 18 months to manufacture, test and commission it.

Kevin Brown, Head of the Pile Fuel Cladding Silo Programme at Sellafield Ltd said: “We have opened up a building designed to be sealed forever and engineered a way for getting the waste out.

“After years of intensive planning, preparation and investment, seeing the retrievals modules in place next to the Pile Fuel Cladding Silo is a huge moment for those involved.”

The nuclear site is moving into a 100-year programme of environmental mediation, which means speeding up the decommissioning of old facilities and moving the waste into safe containment for centuries to come.

Cracks in the Hunterston B nuclear plant have been revealed, after having been initially discovered last year.

Latest Podcast