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Nuclear Waste Retrieval Begins at UK’s Oldest Waste Store

  • 16 August 2023
    London, England

Sellafield engineers, using new equipment designed and installed by a Bechtel-Cavendish Nuclear team, have begun retrieving waste from the UK’s oldest waste storage building. The Pile Fuel Cladding Silo (PFCS) at Sellafield nuclear facility in northwest England is a sealed building with six compartments of radioactive material. It was built in the 1950s to store debris from the UK’s oldest nuclear reactors. This week, a crucial stage was reached when a remotely operated crane reached through one of six shielded access doors and started safely and securely scooping out waste. The milestone is significant in the permanent, safe, and secure disposal of materials, and has Sellafield retrieving waste from all four legacy ponds and silos for the very first time.

Euan Hutton, Sellafield Ltd CEO, said: 

“The first retrievals from the Pile Fuel Cladding Silo are a huge step towards delivering our purpose of creating a clean and safe environment for future generations. This achievement means that for the first time ever Sellafield is retrieving waste from all four of our legacy ponds and silos. This represents the culmination of years of effort by hundreds of people throughout our organisation and contractor community. I am enormously proud of all of them.”

Bechtel Cavendish Nuclear Solutions Ltd designed, manufactured, tested, and installed the retrieval system for Sellafield Ltd as part of the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s highest priority risk reduction cleanup program. 

A remotely operated telescopic waste retrieval crane is now lifting waste out of the silo and placing it into a stainless steel waste box. The box will be sealed up before being taken out of the building in a transport package and transferred to a more modern facility on the Sellafield site for long-term safe storage. 

Mike Higgins, Bechtel’s project manager at Sellafield said: 

“This is another leap forward in the cleanup of one of Europe’s most hazardous buildings that has posed an environmental risk for decades. The rapid and safe retrieval of this waste and repackaging into modern containers is a national priority. Getting to this position, over the last 12 years, is testament to the hard work, dedication and collaboration of the team, our joint venture partners Cavendish Nuclear, alongside our customer and all our supply chain partners.”

Leigh Wakefield, Business Director, Cavendish Nuclear said:

“We are proud of the truly collaborative approach adopted between Sellafield, Bechtel and Cavendish Nuclear, which has enabled yet another milestone in the decommissioning of a 1950s nuclear waste storage facility to be delivered successfully. Starting retrievals is a fantastic achievement and as a team we are pleased to be supporting Sellafield to retrieve the decades-old waste, package it safely, and dispose of it permanently - reducing the hazard on the Sellafield site to create a safe and secure world, together.”

About Cavendish Nuclear 

From servicing existing nuclear power plants and decommissioning some of the most complex nuclear sites in the world, to supporting the UK’s Clean Energy commitment through Nuclear New Build and development of Advanced Nuclear Technologies, to helping keep the UK’s fleet of nuclear-powered submarines at sea, our people innovate to deliver nuclear services safer, faster, at lower cost. 

We deliver across all aspects of the nuclear energy life cycle; from design, manufacture, and construction, through operations and maintenance, to decommissioning, waste management and remediation. 

You can view our recent projects here.

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About Bechtel

Bechtel is a trusted engineering, construction and project management partner to industry and government. Differentiated by the quality of our people and our relentless drive to deliver the most successful outcomes, we align our capabilities to our customers’ objectives to create a lasting positive impact. Since 1898, we have helped customers complete more than 25,000 projects in 160 countries on all seven continents that have created jobs, grown economies, improved the resiliency of the world's infrastructure, increased access to energy, resources, and vital services, and made the world a safer, cleaner place.  

Bechtel serves the Energy; Infrastructure; Manufacturing & Technology; Mining & Metals; and Nuclear, Security & Environmental markets. Our services span from initial planning and investment, through start-up and operations.

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