A ground-breaking scientific study into how intermediate level waste (ILW) at Sellafield behaves has won a global chemical engineering award.
The research was carried out at the Magnox Swarf Storage Silo (MSSS) – Sellafield’s most hazardous legacy storage facility.
It looked at the viability and safety of placing waste from the silo directly into boxes, rather than subjecting the material to a lengthy treatment process.
Its findings meant Sellafield Ltd could slice millions of pounds off the estimated bill for cleaning up the building by replacing a 22-step mechanical treatment with a much simpler and safer process.
This pioneering work – a joint initiative by Sellafield Ltd and the National Nuclear Laboratory – won the Process Safety category in the IChemE Global Awards in Manchester on 3 November.
The research centred on the long-term behaviour of the waste and the corrosion of magnesium and uranium.
It means waste retrievals at the silo – a national decommissioning priority – will be accelerated by around four years.
The research is also paving the way for other nuclear waste material at the Sellafield site to be managed in this simpler and more fit-for-purpose way to accelerate hazard and risk reduction.
Paul Foster, Sellafield Ltd chief executive, said: “The adoption of a new approach to ILW marked a pivotal moment in the journey of Sellafield Ltd.
“I am extremely proud of the role Sellafield Ltd has played in the collaborative research project which has delivered a genuine breakthrough in the science behind nuclear decommissioning.
“This new approach will deliver a faster – therefore safer – and more cost effective solution to the clean-up of one of Sellafield’s most hazardous facilities and gives UK taxpayers a genuine return on their investment in the site.”