Fuel skip decontamination trial

sellafield logoAn important trial is underway to decontaminate a highly contaminated fuel skip from Sellafield’s Fuel Handling Plant (FHP) in conjunction with Magnox Ltd at their Hinkley Point decommissioning site. 

The skip is one of hundreds of empty skips to be removed from FHP, that are taking up space ear-marked to store legacy nuclear fuel from the 60-year-old First Generation Magnox Storage Pond (FGMSP).

Martin Leafe, head of FGMSP said: “Finalisation of a waste disposal route for redundant Magnox skips is vital to allow us to start retrieving legacy fuel from the FGMSP in 2015.

“Joining forces with Magnox Ltd makes sense and potentially millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money can be saved across the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s (NDA) estate.  We can cut up the skips at Sellafield to size reduce them, but we need to decontaminate them if possible and this trial is being carried out to confirm the capability to do just that.”

Different cutting technologies including fibre laser, diamond wire and plasma arc have been tested to size-reduce the fuel skips.  Plasma arc technology eventually won the day because of it worked underwater and an underwater plasma torch rig in the FHP will be built to size-reduce skips for re-packing to free-up pond space

Technical manager Phil Hayward said: “The highly contaminated skip was first cut-up at Sellafield and the painted surface partially decontaminated as part of an earlier trial.  It was then shipped to Hinkley A for more extensive trials as part of a collaborative effort with Magnox Ltd.  They will strip its paint coating and its metal surface will be milled on a large milling machine to remove sub surface contamination.”

Eventually, there will be some 2000 fuel skips held in Sellafield storage ponds that will have to be size reduced and disposed of.