The contract, with LLWR Segregated Services, will see more than 200 tonnes of LLW metal smelted at the Studsvik metals recycling facility near Workington – preventing the need for more than 24 iso-freight containers of LLW to be disposed of at the repository.
Light Water Reactor spent fuel has been stored underwater within the cylindrical containers known as MEBs for more than 20 years in some cases. After the fuel is removed for reprocessing, the empty MEBs, contained within special racks, have continued to be held within the Thorp storage ponds awaiting processing.
While trials are ongoing to treat the MEBs themselves through a decontamination process, the racks will be treated through a smelting process, which reduces the volume and weight of the waste and produces metal ingots.
These can then be released as conventional scrap metal. Although some secondary waste will arise in the form of ‘slag’ which will require disposal at the LLWR, this is still significantly less than had the MEB racks been disposed of in their entirety.
Martin Walkingshaw, head of Customer Services, LLWR Ltd, said: “The metallic waste processing service that we provide opens up opportunities for our customers to recycle material as well as reduce the volumes of LLW required for disposal at the repository, which is better for the environment and an efficient use of resources.”
In total, some 400 MEB frames will require treatment. This works out at more than 64 iso-freight containers worth of LLW that would require disposal at the repository.
Simon Rowe, head of Manufacturing Metals Recycling, added:
“Treating the MEB racks in this way demonstrates successful implementation of the waste hierarchy, which is about reducing the volumes of waste that are directly disposed of, beginning with the avoidance of waste at source.”