The removal of the first fuel rods from Calder Hall, which was opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1956, marks the beginning of a six year programme to remove fuel from the reactors, as decommissioning of the world’s first civil nuclear power producing plant gathers momentum.
It follows just a few weeks after another industry first for Sellafield, with the decommissioning of the Windscale Advanced Gas Cooled Reactor in the summer, which was the first time a power producing reactor had been safely dismantled in the UK.
The Calder reactors have been inoperative since 2003 when the pioneering station closed down after 47 years of meeting the UK’s power demands.
In 2007 the iconic Calder Hall Cooling Towers were demolished, forever changing the landscape of Sellafield and West Cumbria.
However, the spent fuel has remained in place until now. The overall defuelling programme is expected to take up to six years during which the fuel will be removed from the reactors and transferred elsewhere on the Sellafield site for reprocessing.
Upon completion, the reactors and associated infrastructure will progressively be decommissioned to enable the site to enter into a ‘care and maintenance’ phase.
Stuart MacVean, NMP Executive Director, Spent Fuel Management, said: “Calder Hall has a unique role in the global nuclear industry as it was the world’s first commercial nuclear power producing facility.
“The start of this process represents a key moment in Sellafield’s history and, following on from the recent WAGR project, another significant achievement in making the site cleaner, safer, more efficient and a better neighbour.”
Martin Brownridge, Head of Programme Delivery, Calder Hall, added: “I’d like to extend my thanks and appreciation to the team that has been working so hard for many years to get us to this stage. Significant engineering, commissioning, operational and safety case challenges have been delivered to enable defuelling to commence.
“The priority of Calder Hall is to progress defuelling, whilst maintaining our excellent safety record.”
Dr Ian Hudson, NDA’s Head of Programme for Sellafield, said: “Calder Hall is a name synonymous with nuclear power and its contribution as a pioneer of the industry cannot be overstated.
“Our mission is to clean up and decommission the UK’s nuclear legacy and the outstanding work that is being undertaken on the Calder Hall project is a shining beacon, representing what can be achieved and how challenges can be overcome. I congratulate the team on safely and successfully reaching this milestone and look forward to continued progress.”