New Sellafield management takes effect

24 March 2009

Performance has picked up at the Sellafield MOX Plant, as engagement begins with the site's new parent body consortium.


Sellafield MOX Plant Dry Laboratory
The Dry Laboratory at Sellafield MOX
Plant (Image: Sellafield Sites)
Workers at SMP have celebrated the manufacture of 24 fuel rods in a single day, while the plant is over one quarter of the way through an order by a German customer.


The plant makes mixed-oxide nuclear fuel assemblies for international customers using uranium and plutonium recovered from reprocessing of used nuclear fuel. Meant to partner the Thorp reprocessing plant, it began operation in 2001 but has never performed as hoped. Now it appears more rapid improvement way be taking place.


The German order consists of eight fuel assemblies, two of which have been completed. In addition, the team reported, it has built all the high-enrichment rods for the assemblies, leaving about 180 rods of other enrichments outstanding. "During January and February, we hit all our operations targets and, over the past three months, we have delivered all we said we would in terms of both pellets and rods," Sellafield staff told World Nuclear News.


The progress is in part down to a four-phase process of engagement of Sellafield teams with Nuclear Management Partners, a consortium of Washington International Holdings, Amec and Areva. The companies became Sellafield's 'parent body' in November last year as part of a contract worth some £1.3 billion ($1.9 billion) per year.


The process is called PAIS (partner, assess, innovate and sustain) and involves 68 experts from the consortium working closely with 56 experts with long experience at Sellafield. It is being carried out across the site.


Consortium staff, including four from Areva with considerable MOX experience, have spent a number of days on shift with SMP workers. Simon Monaghan, an improvements coordinator at Sellafield, said that the PAIS process has brought "a fantastic wealth of knowledge." The next phase of engagement will "discuss in detail the improvement opportunities, the manufacturing benefits and the priority of each proposal."


At SMP, workers are currently beginning to build the fuel assemblies for their customer this month.