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Friday, 25 April 2014

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First nuclear fuel removed from old store ponds at Sellafield

A decommissioning milestone has been reached at Sellafield Ltd – a year ahead of schedule.

The first oxide fuel has been removed from the pile fuel storage pond, where it has been for more than 40 years, and transferred to the active handling facility.

The move starts an 18-month programme which will see the transfer of the rest of the fuel for repackaging into modern containment vessels.

Tony Calvin, head of operations said: “This is a tremendous decommissioning milestone for the plant. Decommissioning is all about reducing the potential hazard posed by our facilities. Retrieving this fuel is an important stage in emptying the pond.

“There has been a substantial effort from all those involved in the project and the great team spirit that we have in our plant has meant that we could meet this important milestone for our customer, our regulators and the local community.”

The majority of the fuel originates from the Windscale Advanced Gas Cooled Reactor – known as the golf ball. The fuel came from the golf ball into the pond between 1963 and 1972. It was never designed to store oxide fuel long term.

Jim French, Sellafield Ltd’s director of decommissioning said that work has been carried out over the past year to ensure facilities at the Windscale Laboratory would be ready in time for fuel shipment to begin this summer.

“This flask movement marks the successful conclusion of a substantial programme of work by both parties, and also by the Office of Nuclear Regulation, who have had to review the safety case for this work to go ahead,” he added.

Dorothy Gradden, head of the programme, said: “The Pile Fuel Storage Pond is far from straightforward.”

The fuel, which has been in the Legacy Pond for more than 40 years, will next be transferred to the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (Thorp), where it will be managed as part of the overall oxide fuel programme.

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