Nuclear Jobs

August 1, 2014

ONR suggests working with different regulators risks slowing UK nuclear build

Author: Admin - Categories: New Build, Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR)

Working with nuclear regulators in different countries risks slowing the development of small nuclear power stations ONR logo ONR logo
in the UK.

That’s the view of the Chief Nuclear Inspector at the Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR), who was providing evidence at the House of Commons on small modular reactors (SMRs) in Britain.

SMRs are reactors that are less than 300MW in capacity and unlike large nuclear plants, they can be made in a factory as a whole unit.

Speaking to the Energy and Climate Change Committee, Dr Andy Hall said: “The only caution I would give in working with other regulators is the group could move at the speed of the slowest in the group although usually speaking you would expect working in combination, you would all come to a conclusion more readily, more speedily.

“In some cases, if other countries don’t have the same priorities for reactor design, it might not move as quickly as ourselves or some others.”

When asked if agreeing to a regulatory scheme with another market might open up potential for savings, Dr Hall said despite the safety objectives in major western countries being similar, it would be “very difficult” for regulators in different nations “to simply issue a joint statement of acceptability of a reactor design”.

He added each nation would have to issue the acceptance of a design in a way that aligns with their own legal and regulatory processes which could prolong the procedure. The US system is moving to becoming “more risk-informed than it has traditionally been” however the UK has had that since 1974, Dr Hall said.

Britain is currently looking into three SMR designs that have been proposed by different organisations.

However, according to the Director for Strategy and Technology at the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) “just having the science and technology right doesn’t mean we can implement it”.

Dr Adrian Simper said: “We have to think through where does the money come from, who is contracted to whom and for what, who bears what sorts of risk, how do we bring in technology vendors, builders, people with money and utilities. Ultimately electricity needs to be a part of this in order to create a solution which delivers the end point that UK separated plutonium stockpile is managed to the smallest amount.”

He added the aim is to know “how we would go to the market to carry out an acquisition” by 2016 and then allow DECC to make a decision on whether it wishes to start building small nuclear power plants.



Tallest historic chimney at Sellafield to be demolished

Author: Admin - Categories: decommissioning, sellafield - Tags:
Sellafield Self-climbing-platform

An innovative self climbing platform will be used to dismantle the chimney

The skyline at Europe’s oldest nuclear site will change forever when the 122 metre structure is removed.

The 61-metre chimney sits on top of an eleven-storey reprocessing plant and stands 122 metres from the ground in total, making it the tallest historic structure on the site since it was built in the 1950s – but not for much longer.

Sellafield Ltd’s demolition team is developing plans to safely dismantle it but, because the chimney sits right at the heart of one of the busiest areas of the most complex nuclear site in Europe, they’ll not be able to use explosives to bring it down.

Instead they’ll be using a special platform to remove the 600 tonnes of concrete and rebar, and over 25 tonnes of stainless steel that make up the huge structure.

Project manager Matthew Hodgson said: “The job of bringing down the stack is going to be a delicate operation to ensure 100 per cent safety of all personnel and surrounding nuclear plants. We have employed Nuvia Limited who has been working with us and a number of other contractors, including Delta Steeplejacks, for the last three years on the demolition scheme.

“Because we can’t use explosives, we will use an ingenious self-climbing platform which will bring the chimney down bit by bit in a controlled manner.”

This clever technique has recently been used in the demolition of the Battersea Power Station’s famous chimneys, which have actually then been re-built to preserve the appearance of the capital’s iconic building.


July 18, 2014

Sellafield celebrates 50 years of safe operations

Author: Admin - Categories: decommissioning, Magnox, NDA, sellafield

The UK’s first commercial nuclear reprocessing plant is celebrating a land mark birthday – still going strong after 50Sellafield img_process years of safe operations.

Sellafield’s Magnox Reprocessing Plant first opened its doors in the same year the Great Train robbers went on trial, and the very first episode of Match of the Day hit the first ever portable televisions.

It was an age before computers were able to help scientists plan and run nuclear plants, and the fact that Magnox has lasted for twice the length of time it was designed to, and is still reprocessing fuel and helping to keep lights on around the UK in 2014, is testament to the skills of the engineers who built the facility, true nuclear pioneers.

To celebrate that special birthday, Sellafield Ltd, the company who manage operations at Sellafield today, invited 50 former staff members back to visit the old facility, and see how it has changed over the years.

One of the group, John Hall, who was the night shift manager the night the very first fuel rods were put into the plant, said: “The Magnox reprocessing plant really has proved to be the backbone of the UK’s nuclear industry, and it’s doing important work today as it has always done.

“I remember that first night when it had been turned on, we went on the night shift not knowing what to expect. I mean, we sort of knew it was going to work because we were professional and we trusted the theory, but it was still something of a leap of faith to see exactly how it would work and what would happen — as there was no way you could be absolutely certain until you turned it on and waited to see what happened. It was a nervous first night and something I will never forget.

“There has obviously been a lot of modernisation in terms of bringing the plant up to current safety standards, and retrospectively fitting state of the art safety equipment, including computers, but in essence it still looks and feels very much like it did all those years ago. When I retired in 1994 I didn’t think I’d ever get to come back – but I’m glad I’ve been able to. I’m proud of having played a part in something that has been so important to the global nuclear industry and the fabric of the local area.”

Mark Jackson, the current Head of the Magnox Operating Unit said: “The longevity of the plant, and its safety record, are a real success for not only the nuclear industry, but industry as a whole.

“Imagine a car from 1964 still running on the roads today, and not just being brought out for exhibitions or displays, but actually doing hard miles, every month, come what may. That’s what our Magnox Reprocessing Plant does, and we are extremely proud of it.

“Of course from time to time we face challenges – you’d expect to with a plant this old – but we have a skilled and talented workforce, many of whom have worked in this plant for their entire careers, and whatever comes up, we overcome it and move forward. Some of the operators on the plant have been there for more than 40 years, they know it inside out and are able to pass on their knowledge to the younger team members.”

The government, most recently via the NDA, has invested heavily in maintaining the plant, such is the significance of the role it plays in reprocessing spent nuclear fuel from power stations around the UK. Without Magnox operating safely they wouldn’t be able to generate power for the National Grid.

It takes fuel from Magnox Reactors – like the one that used to run at Sellafield, Calder Hall, and recycles it, dissolving the uranium bar so that plutonium and fission products produced in nuclear reactors can be separated, with the plutonium and uranium able to be reused to make fresh fuel.

More than 52,000 tonnes of fuel have been reprocessed in the plant over the past 50 years.

It currently employees over 400 people, and is estimated to have sustained thousands of jobs in West Cumbria since it opened.

The plant is due to close down in around 2020 – but work to fully decommission it will take decades longer.



July 16, 2014

Dounreay awards new contract

Author: Admin - Categories: amec, Dounreay, NDA
Dounreay aerial view

Dounreay aerial view

A four-year contract for professional services at Dounreay Site Restoration Limited (DSRL) has been awarded to engineering firm AMEC.

DSRL is the site licence company responsible for the clean-up and demolition of this former nuclear research facility on behalf of the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA)

AMEC will provide a range of consultancy services including design, safety case preparation, project management, specialist engineering, decommissioning and technical support.

Under current plans, the Dounreay Nuclear site is expected to close by 2025


Historic nuclear fuel retrievals re-start at Sellafield

Author: Admin - Categories: decommissioning, NNL, sellafield, waste management, Windscale
Sellafield Retrieval_WEB

Windscale Laboratory

The job of emptying canned fuel from the original Windscale fuel storage pond at Sellafield restarts following two years of work to refurbish a specialist facility which repackages legacy canned fuel into modern containers.

The Pile Fuel Storage Pond (PFSP) was the very first nuclear fuel storage pond constructed at Sellafield back in the 1940s and to this day remains the largest open air nuclear storage pond in the world. It is currently being decommissioned and part of this work involves emptying the pond of its nuclear fuel.

Dorothy Gradden, Head of PFSP explained: “The PFSP is well past retirement age and we’re fully committed to removing all the nuclear fuel that has been stored there for decades.

“The pond poses one of the most challenging decommissioning projects on the Sellafield site. Almost 1000 different waste forms have been identified and this canned fuel represents the most significant hazard in the pond and is therefore the highest priority to remove.

“We’ve given the National Nuclear Laboratory’s (NNL) Windscale Laboratory the job of opening up the old fuel cans in a controlled environment to examine the fuel condition and then repackage it for the site’s more modern fuel storage ponds.

“In 2012 we accelerated the retrieval of the first sixteen cans of fuel to allow us to prove our retrieval techniques and underpin the treatment route; while this work was successful we had to pause the retrieval programme while a scheduled upgrade of the Windscale Laboratory was carried out. This is now complete and we are very pleased to be able to start moving canned fuel from the pond and reducing the hazard associated with the facility.”

Originally PFSP stored nuclear fuel and isotopes from the Windscale Pile Reactors that produced nuclear materials for the defence industry. However, the majority of this canned fuel actually hails from the Windscale Advanced Gas Cooled Reactor (WAGR) – the AGR test reactor or golf ball as it’s commonly known. The PFSP received fuel from WAGR in the 1960s, but was never designed to store oxide fuel long term.

Project manager Andy Williams said: “A twelve month programme has started to transfer the 32 flasks of canned fuel from the pond to the NNL Laboratory and onward into the care of our colleagues in the Thorp programme. Underpinning this transfer has required a very close working partnership between all of the parties and has exemplified the drive for accelerated hazard reduction highlighted in the company mission.

“We’ve worked tirelessly to put in place new handling and export equipment so we can safely start emptying the pond of fuel – it’s a red letter day for us. This flask movement marks the successful conclusion of a substantial programme of work which will help meet the safer sooner objective for the PFSP.”

NNL Waste Management & Decommissioning Director Nick Hanigan said: “NNL operate the Windscale Lab, which is strategically important to both the UK and Sellafield. Sellafield Ltd is NNL’s biggest customer and it’s very important that we work together on the legacy clean up of Sellafield. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of the Sellafield Ltd team involved in recommencing the processing of materials and also the NNL team. They worked closely together to make this project a success. We will continue processing materials for another 12 months, and at the end of this it will be a major step forward in decommissioning the PFSP.”

June 27, 2014

Sizewell A defuelling: less than 20 flasks to go

Author: Admin - Categories: Magnox, sellafield, Sizewell

Sizewell A moved one step closer to completing its defuelling this weekend after staff at the Magnox site removed the SZA-300x200final spent fuel from its twin reactors.

Around 3,000 of the 52,945 fuel elements, left when the station shut down at the end of 2006, remain in the site?s cooling ponds awaiting dispatch.

An estimated 17 further flask shipments are required to complete the defuelling phase and to prepare the site for „fuel free? classification by the Office for Nuclear Regulation.

Tim Watkins, Site Director, said: “The team here has worked diligently to keep the fuelling machines running, making sure the defuelling programme continued safely and smoothly.

“We now face the task of dispatching the final flasks to Sellafield for reprocessing, in order to complete the job of removing 99 per cent of the site?s radioactive burden. Finishing this will be a momentous occasion in our history and our focus is now completing that work safely and efficiently.”



Minister hails progress to dismantle Dounreay

Author: Admin - Categories: decommissioning, Dounreay, NDA, waste management

Great strides are being made at Dounreay to clear away Britain’s experiment with fast reactors, according toDounreay - decomm Government Minister Baroness Verma.

She made the comments in a foreword to the annual report and accounts of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, the public body that owns Dounreay and funds its clean-up.

“I’m pleased to see the progress being made at Dounreay where, two years into the Cavendish Dounreay Partnership’s (CDP) contract to manage the site, great strides are being made and genuine cost savings achieved,” said Baroness Verma, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

NDA chairman Stephen Henwood said the consortium in charge of site licence company DSRL “is delivering on its promise to accelerate the programme and achieve savings for the taxpayer”.

He added: “There has been a requirement to add some additional scope into the baseline at Dounreay which is requiring increased expenditure. Over the first two years of CDP’s contract; cost and schedule are being held against the original scope.”

Chief executive John Clarke said the NDA had asked DSRL to carry out “significant additional work, associated largely with movements of material to Sellafield for consolidation purposes”.

The additional scope is expected to be worth several hundred million pounds and is being progressively added into the Dounreay programme.

“This work was recognised as likely during the competition, however the exact scope was not sufficiently defined at that time to allow it to be included in priced bids for the site,” he said.

“The implication of the addition of this high priority scope is that the Interim End State date will be extended by a number of years. The SLC and NDA are working with HMG to minimise any impact on value for money arising from these changes.”

Nigel Lowe, NDA Head of Programme at the site, said: “Dounreay has met all of its milestones to date while taking on additional work which was anticipated, but not specified at the time of the competition. As the detail of this new work is refined it will be progressively incorporated into the wider site decommissioning programme.

“The site continues to be a role model for the effective management of technically challenging decommissioning under a target cost contract, and is attracting high levels of interest from both UK and overseas visitors.”

One of the milestones of the past year is the completion of the first two vaults at the new Low Level Waste Facility that will take around 150,000 tonnes of demolition material and other waste, including paper, rags, tools, glass, concrete and clothing as the site moves towards closure. The vaults will also take waste from the neighbouring Vulcan military site.

The shallow engineered vaults are scheduled to begin accepting waste material later this year. Each vault is around the size of a football pitch and 20 metres deep and, once filled and capped, will eventually be covered with earth and landscaped.

Meanwhile, work is proceeding apace on clean-up and demolition of Scotland’s oldest reactor, the Materials Test Reactor. The facility, which opened in 1958 and closed in 1969, was served by a number of ancillary buildings, including a cooling circuit and towers, a fuel pond, post-irradiation examination (PIE) cells, workshops, laboratories, an active handling bay and administrative offices.

Many of these ancillary facilities have now disappeared, with a major milestone achieved last year with clean-up completed at the highly contaminated post-irradiation examination (PIE) cells, or cave. Final demolition of the reactor itself is scheduled for 2015.

Around Dounreay the NDA continues to play a key role supporting projects in conjunction with the Caithness & North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership (CNSRP).

During 2013/2014, the DSRL socio-economic plan was successfully delivered. The CNS fund, established as the community benefit fund associated with the Dounreay LLW facility, completed a successful first year of operation awarding grants to 29 sustainable development initiatives.

In addition, the North Highland Regeneration Fund supported a number of existing and new local businesses through loan funding, helping to create and sustain jobs in Caithness and Sutherland.


June 13, 2014

First active waste package goes into Hunterston ‘A’ ILW store

Author: Admin - Categories: decommissioning, Hunterston, Magnox, NDA, Uncategorized

Magnox Limited has achieved a major milestone with the transportation of the first active waste package intoMagnox thumbnail Hunterston A’s Intermediate Level Waste (ILW) store.

During their years of operation, the reactors at Hunterston A produced a certain amount of waste material, classified as either low or intermediate depending on their level of radioactivity.  Whilst all low level waste is sent off-site to a repository, a purpose built storage facility was conceived as a solution for safely and securely storing all ILW on-site until such time that the Scottish Government Higher Activity Waste Policy identifies final storage and disposal options for Scotland’s nuclear ILW.

Mark Stubbs, Hunterston A Site Director said: “The safe retrieval and encapsulation of all ILW is a key requirement of Hunterston’s preparation for its care and maintenance phase in 2022.  The transportation of the first active waste package into the store marks a major milestone for the site, Magnox Limited and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).  It is also testament to the dedication and commitment of the site workforce, who over the next few years will safely transfer approximately 1,650 packages of intermediate level waste on the site into our ILW store.”

Construction of the Hunterston A ILW store commenced in 2004 and includes mechanical handling systems so that processed and packaged waste can be stored safely, easily inspected, and removed safely. The building structure is 120m long and 21.6m wide, with 1.2m thick concrete walls, a concrete roof and a fixed base mass concrete foundation with an ability to store approximately 2,400 waste packages for over one hundred years. 

Brian Burnett, Head of Programmes at the NDA, said: “Retrieving, packaging and storing waste in safe and secure facilities is an important hazard reduction activity and a key step on the path to care and maintenance.  I commend Hunterston A and Magnox on achieving this milestone.”



New plant at Sellafield ready to handle historic waste

Author: Admin - Categories: decommissioning, Magnox, NDA, sellafield, waste management

Senior representatives from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and Sellafield Ltd attended the officialSellafield img_process handover

A new £240 million Sludge Packaging Plant (SPP1) has been built at Sellafield to handle historic radioactive waste from one of the most hazardous decommissioning projects in the UK.

The First Generation Magnox Storage Pond (FGMSP) handled 27,000 tonnes of nuclear fuel over its lifetime and is now being decommissioned. It is estimated that there is up to 1500 cubic metres of radioactive sludge left in the 60-year-old nuclear pond which will be pumped to the new SPP1.

Jack Devine, Chief Decommissioning Officer said: “We’re totally focused on cleaning up the Sellafield site and reducing the risk and hazards associated with the legacy nuclear plants. Some of this history isn’t pretty and the FGMSP poses a raft of technical and safety challenges, but we won’t shy away from these and completion of the SPP1 is a great example of our drive to make Sellafield safer sooner.”

The SPP1 has been built and tested, and is now being handed over to the operations team for final trials before it starts to receive sludge towards the end of the year. At the heart of SPP1 are three enormous stainless steel buffer storage vessels – each the same volume as seven double decker buses – to hold the sludge.

Each of the three vessels was brought to the Sellafield site in eleven separate sections and then welded together before being carefully slid into the reinforced concrete building. The welding of each vessel involved over 2000 metres of weld run, which was done 99% right first time. All welds were then radiographed to ensure the required integrity and that there will be no leaks.

Project Manager Karl Mason said: “Finishing off a large complex project like SPP1 is always a challenge and it’s been all hands on deck to complete the work to the high standards and quality required to enable the facility to be handed over to the FGMSP. We’ve had good support from our main contractors Doosan Babcock and Balfour Beatty to deliver the project”.

“I’ve been on the project seven years. To take the project from a starting point where we didn’t even have a design, to a position that you are pressing the button and making it work and handing the plant over for active commissioning preparations to then seeing the sludge being transferred into the facility later in the year will be very satisfying. SPP1 is a vital component to help empty the FGMSP and accelerate decommissioning of the plant.”

The build has not been without its challenges, in particular lifting and installing the 31-metre-long, 50-tonne pipebridge in a congested area surrounded by nuclear plants. It was one of the most technically challenging crane lifts ever performed on the Sellafield site. Space was extremely tight, the load was heavy and awkward, and the consequences of failure didn’t bear thinking about – but it was done and it was done safely.

The 1950s FGMSP is open to the elements with no roof and so sludge has been accumulating at the bottom of the pond just like in any garden pond. The sludge however is radioactive and lies up to one-metre-deep in places at the bottom of the 7-metre-deep pond and therefore getting the sludge out is a difficult job.

Martin Leafe, Head of FGMSP added: “It’s a very important day for us. We can now make significant progress in decommissioning part of the UK’s historic nuclear legacy, that up until now we didn’t have the means to deal with.

“We’ve built the SPP1 alongside the FGMSP and the radioactive sludge will be transferred into the new SPP1 through a huge pipebridge that we’ve already lifted into place. First, we need to retrieve some sludge from the bottom of the pond and this will be piped across to carry out the final commissioning tests, currently scheduled to start late 2014. We’ve recently carried out a very successful trial using a mini submarine and a powerful jet pump to prove that we’ve got the technology to lift the sludge off the pond floor.”

Speaking at the handover event, David Moore, West Cumbria Sites Stakeholder Group chair said: ”I would like to thank Sellafield Ltd for the opportunity to witness the handover of this impressive facility.

“The handover of SPP1 is a clear demonstration to the local community that Sellafield Ltd is moving forward in its commitment to safely reduce the priority high hazards on the site. The handover event and the subsequent tour of the SPP1 facility provided the perfect opportunity to see this new hazard reduction facility at first hand.”



New plant at Sellafield provides radioacative sludge solution

Author: Admin - Categories: decommissioning, NDA, sellafield, waste management

A new plant to be built at Sellafield will provide over £50m cost savings and accelerate sludge retrieval from the

Model of the PFSP Drum Filling Plant

Model of the PFSP Drum Filling Plant

original Windscale fuel storage pond by more than three years.

Nuclear experts have come up with an innovative solution to the challenge of removing radioactive sludge from the world’s biggest open-air nuclear pond. Using a petrol-pump style design, the Drum Filling Plant (DFP) will export the sludge from the Pile Fuel Storage Pond (PFSP) at a fraction of the original estimated cost.

PFSP was the very first nuclear fuel storage pond constructed at Sellafield back in the 1940s and to this day remains the largest open air nuclear storage pond in the world. It is currently being decommissioned and part of this work involves emptying the pond of its radioactive sludge.

Dorothy Gradden, Head of PFSP explained: “The pond was built in 1948 and contains more than 300 cubic metres of radioactive sludge, which is made up of fuel corrosion products and algae, which have been accumulating in this open air pond. It poses one of the most challenging decommissioning projects on the Sellafield site.

“The plan is to decommission and empty the PFSP to make this historic plant safer sooner. However, before the pond water can be drained, the radioactive sludge has to be removed. This sludge is similar in consistency to tomato ketchup and lies at the bottom of the seven-metre-deep pond. We’ve already started hoovering this up and pumping it in an in-pond corral and we need the Drum Filling Plant to export the sludge for treatment.”

The pond stored nuclear fuel and isotopes from the Windscale Reactors that were designed and built in an incredibly short timescale to produce nuclear materials for the defence industry. The Windscales Piles as they are better known never actually generated electricity, but were the precursor to our Calder Hall reactor – the first commercial reactor in the world.

Today, the Sellafield Ltd project team has echoed this innovative spirit and come up with a revolutionary design for the DFP in less than twelve months.

Project Manager Chris Plane said: “Well over 60 years after the PFSP was built, we’ve developed a new concept plant to package and transfer the radioactive sludge to a modern waste treatment plan. The DFP will be operational by mid 2015 and provides a cost effective solution saving the UK taxpayer money and reducing the sludge hazard.

“The original planned encapsulation export facility was estimated to cost well over £70 million, but we’ve come up with some innovative ideas using technology borrowed from other industries and will build a fit-for-purpose plant which is simpler and will instead cost in the region of £20 million.

“We’ve thrown out the original idea of a high capacity nuclear crane, shielded concrete operating cells and substantially reinforced foundations. Instead we have designed a building skeleton containing what is effectively a large-scale petrol filling pump which we’ve proved using a test rig and it does what it says on the tin – it fills drums.”

The drums will sit inside a 40 tonne transport flask on the back of a transport wagon which is already used on the site for moving waste between plants. The filling system is lowered onto the flask using locomotive lifts from the rail industry and the drum filled without ever leaving the flask. A new lid is being designed for the existing flask using 3D scanning technology to introduce a filling port to allow the sludge to be metered into the drum.

Dorothy added: “The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has approved the plant build and we’ve recently placed a contract with Nuvia to construct the DFP.

“The plant will be built as separate modules to allow it to be assembled and fully tested off site in a controlled environment before being unplugged and shipped to site. This reduces the work required to be done in the more restrictive Sellafield site environment and further accelerates the delivery schedule.”