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National Nuclear Laboratory Plays Key Role in Sellafield Clean-Up Milestone

The UK's National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) has played a vital role in helping Sellafield Ltd to achieve a major milestone in the clean-up of the site. The Pile Fuel Storage Pond on the site, is one of the most challenging facilities from a clean-up and decommissioning perspective. It contains a variety of fuel dating back to the 1960s, retrieval and re-packaging of which is recognised as a priority area on the road to overall hazard reduction and the eventual emptying of the PFSP facility. Yesterday, the first consignment of that fuel was safely delivered to NNL's Windscale Laboratory on the site where it will be examined and re-packaged into new, modern containers prior to transfer to the Thorp reprocessing plant.

NNL have secured a multi-million pound contract to carry out this work for Sellafield Ltd. This contract covers the first phase of oxide fuel removal, and once that is complete, the next phase will be removal and processing of the uranium metal fuel.

Jim French, Sellafield Ltd's Director of Decommissioning, commented:

"NNL have worked in very close partnership with Sellafield Ltd over the past year to ensure that their facilities would be ready in time for fuel shipment to begin this summer. Yesterday's flask movement marks the successful conclusion of a substantial programme of work by both parties, and also by the Office for Nuclear Regulation, who have had to review the safety case for this work to go ahead. I pay tribute to all of them for helping us to reach this point today." 

For NNL, Managing Director Paul Howarth added:

"I'm delighted that we have been able to rise to the challenges posed by this complex but vital work for Sellafield. Over the past 12 months we have worked tirelessly to ensure our facility would be ready for today. That has included the design, installation and commissioning of a criticality system - in itself a major challenge in an old facility which is heavily utilised on important work for EdF Energy in support of the UK's operating nuclear fleet.  We have also designed and installed a lot of new equipment to deal with this fuel, plus we had to make a comprehensive and detailed safety case for carrying out this work to the regulators."