The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has welcomed another major decommissioning milestone after the last batch of bulk metal fuel was removed from Sellafield’s Pile Fuel Storage Pond (PFSP). The PFSP is the oldest fuel storage pond at the site and largest open air nuclear storage pond in the world.
The transfer of the final tonne of bulk metal fuel to safer, more modern storage in the Fuel Handling Plant (FHP) means that 70% of the pond’s radioactive content has been removed, significantly reducing the risk and hazard associated with the facility.
Attention will now shift to the remaining solids and sludge in the pond, including any residual fuel which will be exported in due course.
The key milestone has been achieved through a fit-for-purpose, lead-and-learn approach where the unshielded skips of fuel were lifted out of the pond, transferred across the operational area and then lowered down a hoist well into a shielded flask to be lidded and transported.
Operators controlled the move from 40-feet away, working behind radiation shielding using cameras and well-rehearsed procedures to complete an operation first trialled in 2011, when 350kg of metal fuel was exported from PFSP. Andy Lindley, Sellafield Programme Director, said: “The removal of bulk metal fuel from PFSP many years ahead of schedule is another significant risk reduction step in the wider clean-up of Sellafield’s legacy facilities.
“We have worked with Sellafield and other key stakeholders to expedite the project safely and in the coming months our attention will switch to the removal of the remaining wastes from the facility, including sludge.”
Paul Nichol, Head of PFSP at Sellafield Ltd, said: “This has been a massive team effort involving the NDA, regulators, and a site-wide effort across multiple operating units. It’s proof in action of what can be achieved when all parties align behind a common objective and really give it a go.”