Autumn 2014

James Fisher and Sons plc | James Fisher Nuclear at Sellafield

Trials of a new technique for clearing sludge from nuclear ponds using remotely operated vehicles proves a success.

Last month, 35 staff from Sellafield attended a demonstration of sludge retrieval and transfer by James Fisher Nuclear (JFN) at Barrow-in-Furness dock facility. The demonstration was part of a trial commissioned by Sellafield Limited’s Pile Fuel Storage Pond, whose operatives need to transfer radioactive sludge from the plant’s pond decanner bays to its main pond.

Decanners are machines used to remove stainless steel and other metal cans that contain the nuclear reactor’s enriched uranium fuel rods. They do this by shearing the tubing into a spiral strip without creating any chips. Once the fuel element has been decanned, it is moved on to fuel reprocessing. 

With the aid of a barge crane, the team from JFN lowered a tethered slurry pump, two submersible remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), a skip and dumpy bags filled with simulated sludge onto the dock bed. Then one ROV moved the slurry pump into position, while the other attached a discharge hose from the pump to the skip. It then supported the inlet hose while sludge was pumped into a filter bag lining the skip. As the bag was pulled from the dock water drained out, leaving just sludge behind.

Clearing sludge from nuclear ponds is one of the greatest decommissioning challenges facing Sellafield. Through their trials, JFN showed that radioactive sludge can be successfully and safely removed in large quantities using pumps, submersible ROVs and filter bags without any need for long-reach tooling.

Simon Pyne, JFN business development manager, says:

“Everyone seems impressed by the innovation and many see applications for the new methodology in their pond projects. The new technique will accelerate decommissioning and reduce costs.”

Further information

Find out more information about JFN's activity at Sellafield here:

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