Opportunity knocks for risk reduction at Sellafield

Operational Excellence

Workers prepare to safely move the 12.4 tonne door

The first of six mighty doors which will unlock the contents of one of Sellafield’s most hazardous buildings arrives safely at the nuclear site.

One of the ‘big four’ legacy facilities at the Sellafield site – the Pile Fuel Cladding Silo – is a step closer to being cleaned up thanks to the arrival of the 12.4 tonne stainless steel doors, which will be key to opening the building’s ‘locked vaults’.

The doors – equivalent to the weight of around 150 grown men and over 7m tall and 4m wide – will be the access point for waste retrievals machinery to safely begin lifting out the silo’s contents for the first time.

Following years of design, planning, manufacture and testing up at the Rosyth site of supply chain partners Bechtel Cavendish Nuclear Solutions and BMT, the first door safely arrived at the site in early August.

The door was successfully lifted into a massive 40-tonne, 9-metre wide steel door frame on the side of the building.

All six silo doors are expected to be installed on the facility by Christmas 2016, ready for waste retrievals to start in 2020.

Gary Snow, Head of the Pile Fuel Cladding Silo programme, said: “This is a significant milestone that required years of hard work and collaboration with our supply chain team.

“It’s exciting to see all the dedication safely and successfully turned into reality on the facility.

“This is our most visible sign yet on the Sellafield site of our commitment and drive to deliver the ‘early retrievals’ approach which is leading to a simpler, quicker, safer and more efficient way of getting the waste out of this legacy facility.”

The Pile Fuel Cladding Silo, which dates back to the 1940s, is one of the most difficult tasks in the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s (NDA) nationwide nuclear clean-up programme.

Nuclear waste was tipped into the building during the earliest days of Sellafield, when the site’s purpose was to create material to make weapons.

But no plans were drawn up for how future generations would take out the waste when the building was at the end of its life.

Pete Lutwyche, the NDA’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “This marks a massive step in one of the highest priority nuclear clean-up jobs in the UK.

“The difficulty of lifting such enormous pieces of steel on one of the most congested nuclear sites in the world cannot be underestimated.

“This milestone is yet another sign that we are making real, tangible progress towards clearing away the hazards from the UK’s early nuclear industry and making the UK a safer place as a result.”