New nuclear storage solution ‘could save UK £2bn in decommissioning costs’

It has the capacity to store 63 fuel cans in one rack, triple the number of fuel cans that can be held in one underwater storage container

A Cumbrian collaboration has manufactured what is claimed to be a world-first nuclear storage solution that is expected to help the UK save around £2 billion in decommissioning costs.

Workington’s West Cumberland Engineering, Bendalls Engineering from Carlisle and TEAM Industrial Services with bases in Kendal and Carlisle have delivered the ‘Hybrid 1 63 Can Rack’ to Sellafield.

It has the capacity to store 63 fuel cans in one rack, triple the number of fuel cans that can be held in one underwater storage container – an important breakthrough as space is limited in the UK’s only storage pond for Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor (AGR) fuel at Sellafield’s Thorp plant.

It will also reduce the time it takes to remove fuel from AGR reactors, which is expected to help the UK make the savings in decommissioning.

There are currently seven AGR power stations in the UK, which are all operated by EDF Energy, which has provided input into the project along with Sellafield Ltd, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and Direct Rail Services.

The Cumbrian collaboration will manufacture eight of the Hybrid 1 design racks in total and a further eight are being produced by Grahams Engineering from Lancashire.

Andrew Pringle, AGR operating Programme Manager for Sellafield Ltd said: “As the AGR stations are coming to the end of their operational lives, we have to look at how we store the fuel. The current storage compartments can hold up to 20 fuel cans. We knew this wouldn’t be enough. So for a number of years, we’ve been working to design a solution.

“The answer is the 63 can rack, Hybrid 1 design. As the name suggests, it can store 63 fuel cans in one rack. The first rack has been placed in the Thorp Receipt and Storage Pond. We have a further 15 to follow and then the Hybrid 2 Rack, which is an enhanced design to optimise manufacturing, will be used to store fuel cans.

“This will ensure we can support ongoing AGR receipts and enable accelerated bulk defuelling of the AGR reactors from 8 years to 3.5 years. That’s good news for the taxpayer as it will potentially save around £2 billon in decommissioning costs.”

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