Oxide fuel retrieved from Pile Fuel Storage Pond

Sellafield Ltd has safely removed the first Oxide Fuel from the Pile Fuel Storage Pond (PFSP) and transferred to the Active Handling Facility, marking a major milestone for Sellafield Ltd’s Decommissioning Programme, a year ahead of programme.

The move starts an 18 month programme to transfer fuel to National Nuclear Laboratories (NNL) Windscale Laboratory for re-packaging into modern containment vessels and has involved very close partnership work between the two companies.

The fuel, which has been in the Legacy Pond for more than 40 years, will then be transferred to the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (Thorp), where it will be managed as part of the overall oxide fuel programme.

The majority of the fuel originates from the Windscale Advanced Gas Cooled Reactor (WAGR) – the AGR test reactor or golf ball as it’s commonly known. The PFSP received fuel from WAGR between 1963 – 1972, but was never designed to store oxide fuel long term.

Jim French, Sellafield Ltd’s Director of Decommissioning said: “NNL have worked in very close partnership with Sellafield Ltd over the past year to ensure that their facilities would be ready in time for fuel shipment to begin this summer. This flask movement marks the successful conclusion of a substantial programme of work by both parties, and also by the Office of Nuclear Regulation, who have had to review the safety case for this work to go ahead. I pay tribute to all of them for helping us to reach this point”.

Tony Calvin, Head of Operations said: “This is a tremendous decommissioning milestone for the plant. Decommissioning is all about reducing the potential hazard posed by our facilities. Retrieving this fuel is an important stage in emptying the pond.

“There has been a substantial effort from all those involved in the project and the great team spirit that we have in our plant has meant that we could meet this important milestone for our customer, our regulators and the local community.”

Dorothy Gradden, Head of the PFSP Programme, added: “This is a significant achievement, but what makes it even more impressive is that the team have carried out the challenging work without a single Lost Time Accident during the last 2 years.

“The Pile Fuel Storage Pond is far from straightforward and work carried out during this time involves many hazardous activities including retrievals, maintenance and construction, all of which incur a number of risks such as working at height and moving machinery as well as the radiological hazards”..

Mark Steele, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s Head of Programmes for Sellafield, said: “This is further evidence of progressing high hazard reduction in accordance with the ‘Sellafield Performance Plan’, and shows excellent collaboration between Sellafield Ltd and NNL”.

Last September, the very first metal fuel to be moved out of the Pile Fuel Storage Pond (PFSP) for 50 years was successfully completed 5 years ahead of schedule.

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