Sellafield’s Waste Vitrification Plant (WVP) has become the first nuclear waste plant worldwide to produce 219 containers of vitrified waste from the operation of the same melter, overtaking a French company, Cogema at La Hague.
The melter, in simple terms is a huge cooking pot used to melt glass which is combined with Highly Active Liquid (HAL) waste and poured into containers for long term storage. Liquid HAL is converted to a stable solid by turning it into glass, a process known as vitrification.
In the early days of WVP, melters had a limited lifetime of approximately 100 pours in part because they suffered premature failures due to thermal syphoning. Many years of research have enabled this latest melter to run for over three years producing a world first 438 pours.
The Vitrification Test Rig has played a major role in testing new melters before introducing them into the plant processes. This full scale replica of the vitrification process was constructed in 2004. It has helped to develop innovative improvements such as better heat distribution in the melters.
Tom Foster, NMP Sponsored Director of Waste and Effluent Disposition commented “Heat factors and the materials used in this process limit the lifetime of the melters, so to get 438 pours from a single melter is really fantastic.
“Our ultimate aim is to reduce the HAL stocks as part of our commitment to accelerate the hazard reduction at Sellafield. A longer lifetime from the melter helps us do this. We are totally committed to reducing the HAL stocks. Risk reduction is as important to us as it is to our neighbours. Ensuring our local community is environmentally safe is a priority.”