In a major step forward in the long-term clean-up of the Sellafield site, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) can confirm that it has given permission for Sellafield Ltd to commence waste retrievals from the Magnox Swarf Storage Silo (MSSS).
Safely removing the historic waste from this ageing facility and placing it into modern storage facilities is both a national and an ONR priority.
Originally constructed in the 1960s and subsequently extended, the MSSS is one of the oldest facilities at Sellafield and does not meet modern safety standards. The structure, which is comprised of 22 compartments, is estimated to hold approximately 10,000 tonnes of radioactive waste, primarily Magnox swarf, which is stored under water.
ONR inspectors spent many months reviewing the safety case provided by Sellafield Ltd and only after a rigorous assessment was permission given for Sellafield Ltd to begin removing waste from compartment 10 of the facility.
ONR’s Director of Regulation for Sellafield, Decommissioning, Fuel and Waste Division, Paul Dicks, said:
“The MSSS facility met the requirements for the 1960s, but it no longer meets modern safety standards, so removing waste from the silo is by far the safest and arguably the only long-term option for the site.
“ONR’s team of independent specialist inspectors have rigorously assessed and scrutinised Sellafield’s plans and arrangements, and we are satisfied that it is safe for waste to be removed from the facility.
“To see the waste now being retrieved from the facility is a landmark moment, and a major step forward in reducing the long-term hazard and risk at the site.
“The waste contained in the silo has been there for many decades and removing it is not without risk, so ONR inspectors will be closely monitoring work that Sellafield Ltd will be conducting and we will have no hesitation in pausing activities if any causes for concern are identified.”
Removing the full inventory of waste from MSSS is expected to take many years. Once waste is removed it will be placed into modern storage facilities on the site, pending long term disposal in a geological disposal facility.