Decommissioning progress on Windscale Pile

Work has started on removing four large winches from the top of the Pile Chimney, the start of a series of enabling projects for the ultimate demolition of the stack.

“The pile chimney is one of the real hazards that we have to address as part of the high hazard reduction programme,” said Jim French, NMP Executive Director for Sellafield Ltd, and Decommissioning.

“This work will remove a large element of risk from the stack and also make working on the surrounding projects safer – a big step forward given the congested nature of the Separation Area and the amount of work there is to do. The start of the stack removal work is also going to make a skyline change, so our work will be visible to everyone in the area; a great credit to the team and all their efforts.”

The Windscale Piles were built in the 1950s to support the war effort and produced plutonium for military purposes.

The four winches, each weighing in at over 10 tonnes, were situated on the top of the Filter Gallery, and were used to raise and lower the Head Gear Platform inside the Chimney.

In order to safely remove the winches the team, which consists of employees from Sellafield Ltd, Doosan Power Systems, Gemtek Holemaster and Focus Scaffolders, had to cut them down into manageable sized chunks of less than 250kg, which would fit into the alimak to be taken down to ground level.

Geordie Mensforth, Sub-Project Manager for the stack removal project, said: “The winches have been redundant since the removal of the platform in March 2011; their safe removal is the first of a three stage demolition programme for the filter gallery, the winches being followed by removal of the access gantry and then the filter gallery walls and floor.”