National Nuclear Laboratory


Sunday 25 May 2014

New Lab on the Block

A project to improve yet another unique service from the National Nuclear Laboratory has taken a step closer to realisation this month with the completion of the Solvent Extraction Laboratory (SX Lab).

The SX Lab consists of a suite of gloveboxes installed in the NNL’s flagship facility, the Central Laboratory at Sellafield. Completion of the construction phase means that the lab has now been formally handed over to a commissioning team. Once operational, SX Lab will provide a world class service to develop new processes and flowsheets for existing and potential new nuclear plants.


The suite of standard gloveboxes has been modified to include arrays of miniature centrifugal contactors with the flexibility to customise the layout to suit customers’ requirements. A range of feeds and product treatment options have been installed along with facilities to carry out analytical work. Further modifications to improve the ergonomics for the operators of the gloveboxes have also been completed.

The National Nuclear Laboratory’s service includes the ability to work with high levels of actinides and hot solvents, including high plutonium containing material. NNL has already secured customers’ work, including a multi-partner multi-year European Framework funded project for this facility.

Successful Partnership

In addition to the successful collaboration between several NNL teams, modification work has been carried out in partnership with AMEC. They have supported the extensive installation and modification work required to bring the SX Lab completion. Construction work has been completed to an exceptionally high safety standard: the entire project (over 5000 hours) was carried out without any reportable incident. This continues the high standards set on the preceding Graphite Lab project (also in partnership with AMEC) when again the whole project (2300 hours) were completed without any significant incident.

The next stage for the project has now started with the testing of the individual items of equipment. Once completed, commissioning with inactive feeds followed by fully active feeds will take place. A first Plutonium active run is expected later this year.