Sellafield reactor reaches end of decommissioning project

The iconic Sellafield nuclear power reactor has finally reached the end of its 20-year decommissioning programme.

The final section of the Outer Ventilation Membrane (OVM) was safely removed from the reactor’s concrete bioshield at the end of May, marking the successful completion of the final reactor decommissioning campaign.

Ian Cowan, Windscale Advanced Gas Cooled Reactor (WAGR) project manager, said: ‘Completion of the campaign is a significant milestone for the WAGR decommissioning project and draws to a close 20 years of work to safely dismantle, process and place into passive storage an industrial-scale power-generating nuclear reactor.’

The golf ball-shaped WAGR was built in the early 1960s to serve as a testbed for the further development of advance fuel and other components, and to provide the operational experience of power production and was the forerunner to the UK’s second generation of power reactors.

It was owned and operated by the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and later by Babcock International Group, which, up until January 2011, managed the decommissioning project.

In anticipation of the UK’s likely nuclear decommissioning needs, the UKAEA decided in 1981 to decommission WAGR as the national demonstration exercise for power reactor decommissioning.

The knowledge of dismantling and decommissioning skills will be used in other high-hazard reduction projects across the Sellafield site and the wider nuclear industry.

Peter Law, WAGR senior project manager, said: ‘Completion of the reactor dismantling has required a great deal of technical ingenuity and persistence and has proven the decommissioning of power reactors soon after shutdown can be safely achieved with currently available technology.’