New radioactive sludge plant ready to go

sellafield 200A new £240 million Sludge Packaging Plant (SPP1) has been built at Sellafield to handle historic radioactive waste from one of the most hazardous decommissioning projects in the UK.

The First Generation Magnox Storage Pond (FGMSP) handled 27,000 tonnes of nuclear fuel over its lifetime and is now being decommissioned. It is estimated that there is up to 1500 cubic metres of radioactive sludge left in the 60-year-old nuclear pond which will be pumped to the new SPP1.

The SPP1 has been built and tested, and is now being handed over to the operations team for final trials before it starts to receive sludge towards the end of the year. At the heart of SPP1 are three enormous stainless steel buffer storage vessels – each the same volume as seven double decker buses – to hold the sludge.

Project Manager Karl Mason said: “Finishing off a large project is always a challenge and it’s been all hands on deck by to complete the work to enable the facility to be handed over to the FGMSP. We’ve had great cooperation from the prime contractors Doosan Babcock and Balfour Beatty to ensure we delivered a plant to the high standards and quality required.”

The 1950s FGMSP is open to the elements with no roof and so sludge has been accumulating at the bottom of the pond just like in any garden pond. The sludge however is radioactive and lies up to one-metre-deep in places at the bottom of the 7-metre-deep pond and therefore getting the sludge out is a difficult job.

Martin Leafe, Head of FGMSP added: “It’s a very important day for us. We can now make significant progress in decommissioning part of the UK’s historic nuclear legacy, that up until now we didn’t have the means to deal with.”

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