UK's Pile Fuel Cladding Silo opened for first time

06 September 2017

The world's oldest nuclear waste store - the Pile Fuel Cladding Silo at Sellafield, England - has been cut open for the first time, Sellafield Ltd and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority announced yesterday. Built in the 1950s when the site's purpose was to make material for nuclear weapons, the silo is a locked vault that was "never designed to be opened", they said.

One hole is to be cut at the top of each of the facility's six compartments, allowing access to the waste within the silo's walls for the first time in 65 years.

Steven Carroll, head of the Pile Fuel Cladding Silo, said: "The level of challenge involved with this facility is unparalleled, considering the age of the building, the lack of historical information about the waste itself, the atmosphere inside the silo and its position on one of the most congested sites, anywhere in the world.

"Despite this, the teams have carried out some world class engineering in difficult environments to get us closer to getting the waste out and into safer storage earlier than planned."

The work is being carried out by Sellafield Ltd, along with Bechtel Cavendish Nuclear Solutions and Babcock Marine Technology.

Preparations for the work included "practising the cutting operation" at a full-scale replica test rig in Rosyth, Scotland.

Each section is cut away in a single piece and withdrawn into a containment bag. A containment door is then lowered over the aperture and closed, according to the joint statement. The giant steel doors will provide a safe barrier between the waste inside the silo and the outside world.

Work to remove the material will start in 2019.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News