Sellafield contracts enable radioactive-waste retrieval

Decommissioning progress on one of Sellafield’s oldest nuclear plants has moved forward with three new contracts totalling more than £160m to enable radioactive-waste retrieval.

According to Sellafield, the Pile Fuel Cladding Silo (PFCS) is almost 60 years old and contains more than 4,000m3 of historic radioactive waste that has to be retrieved from the facility as part of the decommissioning work.

To facilitate the clean-up, Sir Robert McAlpine has been awarded £8m for the silo’s retrieval facility superstructure, Bechtel Babcock Nuclear Services (BBNS) is in receipt of £150m for the waste-retrieval modules and Clarke Chapman has received £3m to build and test a Semi Goliath crane.

Tim Davies, head of PFCS Retrieval Projects, said: ‘Sellafield has let these contracts in order to deliver an accelerated decommissioning programme that we have committed to and agreed with our customer, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority [NDA].’

Dr Ian Hudson, the NDA’s head of programme for Sellafield, said: ‘Getting to a position to start radioactive-waste retrievals from our legacy facilities such as the Pile Fuel Cladding Silo is crucial to the long-term success of our decommissioning mission on the site.’

Site preparations have been completed for the new PFCS Retrieval Facility superstructure; 130 piles have been sunk into the ground and the concrete foundations are in place.

The Retrieval Facility will comprise a reinforced concrete superstructure to be built by Sir Robert McAlpine, with modular steel-retrieval and packaging cells. The whole facility will be bolted onto the side of the PFCS, but will be structurally independent.

The engineering procurement and construction of the key retrieval modules will be central to the PFCS Retrieval Facility. It will include primary equipment for the retrieval of waste from the six compartments and its subsequent packaging into 3m3 waste boxes. The completed modules will be slotted into the skeleton superstructure in order to commence retrieval of the silo waste in 2017.

BBNS has already started work familiarising itself on the project as a precursor to completing the manufacturing design of the modules.

The Clarke Chapman contract is to design, build and works-test a Semi Goliath Crane to handle the waste packages coming in and out of the modules. The 3m3 waste packages will weigh in the region of 60 tonnes when full and will be transferred to a new purpose-built storage facility currently in the design and construction phase.

In the last 10 years, a significant amount of work has been completed in order to prepare for the retrieval of this historic waste from the PFCS, which will allow the eventual decommissioning and demolition of the store.