Technicians began removing nuclear waste from the Magnox Swarf Storage Silo at the Sellafield Site in Britain, the government program said last week.
Standing in the oldest part of the Sellafield site, the Magnox Swarf Storage Silo has stored nuclear waste in its water-filled chambers for the last 60 years. Unfortunately, however, the building was not constructed with the event of decommissioning in mind. As such, "it is one of the most hazardous nuclear facilities on the Sellafield Site and in the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority's estate," Sellafield LTD. said.
Once a vital part of the nation’s nuclear energy generation, the building stored the casings removed from used fuel rods from Magnox reactors so that the fuel inside could be reprocessed.
Technicians on Thursday began removing the waste held inside the silo, putting it into purpose-built stainless steel waste containers and moving it to modern storage on the site.
The process is the culmination of decades of preparation by hundreds of people across the Sellafield program and its supply chain, noted Chris Halliwell, who is leading the waste removal process.
"The first of our 3 retrievals machines has now started the job which will take another 20 or so years to complete. Our teams use this machine to reach down into the compartment of the silo, grab waste from inside, and put it inside containers that have been designed and manufactured for the job," he said.
"Eventually those metal waste boxes will be held safely inside a new highly engineered store currently being built on site. So that we can get waste out as soon as possible, we are making use of existing stores at Sellafield until the new one is ready."
The toxic waste will eventually be sent to a geological disposal facility "when that becomes available," he said.
After the waste is removed, the process of decommissioning the silo building itself will commence.
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