Sellafield's recently opened import facility has received its first box of nuclear waste, paving the way to clean up one of the site's oldest buildings.

The Box Encapsulation Plant Product Store (BEPPS), an above-ground vault, has the capability to safely store intermediate level wastes for a century.

Its role is to aid in the clean-up of Sellafield's legacy ponds and silos, regarded as the UK's top-priority nuclear decommissioning programmes.

The building’s Direct Import Facility (DIF), after years of meticulous preparation and testing, received the first box of waste last week.

With the capacity to house 6,681 waste boxes within its one metre-thick walls, the BEPPS can take in up to nine boxes every 24 hours.

Acting as an annexe to the store, the DIF is purpose-built to accept packages of nuclear waste from ageing stores in Sellafield's oldest sections.

The inaugural package contains waste from Sellafield's oldest waste store, the Pile Fuel Cladding Store (PFCS), which maintained 3,200 cubic metres of intermediate level waste undisturbed for seven decades.

Constructed in the 1950s, PFCS stored the metal fuel casings from the UK's early nuclear reactors, designed as a 'locked vault' without any outlined plan for future emptying.

Today, it represents one of the highest hazards on the Sellafield site, prompting Sellafield Ltd. and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) to prioritise the removal and repackaging of its waste.

PFCS' first batch was successfully retrieved in August 2023, marking a historic first and revealing the culmination of decades of planning by generations of nuclear workers.

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Enormous shield doors were installed to maintain a radiation barrier, as holes were carved into the building to allow access.

The five-tonne box of waste was transported to BEPPS-DIF, where it was placed behind a shield door for operators to remotely remove the flask lid, lift out the box and transfer it to a designated location in the store.

Euan Hutton, Sellafield Ltd CEO, said: "The receipt of the first box of waste into BEPPS-DIF marks an important breakthrough in the clean-up of our site and a huge step forward in our mission to create a clean and safe environment for future generations."

He expressed his gratitude and pride, attributing the achievement to tireless dedication over many years.

David Peattie, NDA group CEO, said: "This is a significant achievement which will enable us to continue to deliver our vital mission and I’d like to extend my thanks to everyone who has been involved for their commitment to the project."

The new facility, he added, provides the necessary storage capability to continue hazard reduction efforts in a secure and safe manner.