Low level waste (LLW) makes up the largest physical volume of radioactive waste and is only slightly radioactive. We are committed to safely managing low level waste and processing it to reduce the volume of waste which needs to be disposed of at the Low Level Waste Repository (LLWR).
At Sellafield an integrated nuclear waste management programme is in place which seeks to reduce waste volumes arising as part of current activities as well as historic operations, ensuring that waste is stored safely, minimising the risk to the public and the environment.
LLW, which forms 80% of all nuclear waste, is only slightly radioactive and includes things like protective clothing, laboratory equipment, paper towels and gloves etc, items that have been used in the controlled areas of a nuclear site, or in hospitals and nuclear research centres.
The waste is treated at Sellafield at the Waste Monitoring and Compaction Plant. At the Waste Monitoring and Compaction Plant the waste is placed inside boxes which are monitored and then compacted down to a quarter of their original size using a high force compactor.
The facility also processes waste from other waste producers. The material is received in drums which are monitored and compacted.
These drums and boxes are then placed inside an ISO freight container and transported mainly by rail to the Low Level Waste Repository in West Cumbria. Non compactable waste is placed in ISO containers and sent to the Low Level Waste Repository by rail.
Only 50% of the solid low level radioactive waste disposed of at LLWR is from Sellafield. The rest comes from hospitals, universities, research establishments and industries, including the nuclear industry, around the UK.
Wherever possible, work will be undertaken to minimise the future generation of all nuclear waste. At Sellafield today there are a number of workstreams under way concerned with the treatment and storage of LLW, including waste sorting, segregation and size reduction techniques and using the supply chain for optimum disposal routes.
Metallic waste is treated via the Metals Recycling Facility and where possible exempted for re-use, volume reduced to minimise the volume of waste sent to the Low Level Waste Repository or sent to the supply chain for treatment.