Summer 2014

Nuclear pond clean-up progresses

Pioneering Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) help move over 4,500kg of fuel rods in clear-up of Sellafield’s First Generation Magnox Storage Pond.

When the team tasked with decommissioning Sellafield’s First Generation Magnox Storage Pond (FGMSP) in Cumbria faced the challenge of locating and clearing waste materials they called on James Fisher Nuclear (JFN) for specialist help.

The pond was constructed in the 1950s and 60s to receive and store irradiated fuel, but over the years it has accumulated significant quantities of waste materials, sludges from corrosion of fuel cladding, fuel fragments and other debris which has blown into the pond, and approximately 1,200 skips containing irradiated fuel. The contents of the pond needed to be characterised, sorted and retrieved, but all work had to be done remotely to minimise exposure to radiation.

The team at JFN, working closely with Sellafield, was able to develop special tooling and services for submersible remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), which can be controlled from a safe distance of 15 to 20 metres from the pond site to minimise the risk of radiation exposure.

The ROVs deploy cameras, sensors, sludge and liquor samplers, grabs, cutting tools and manipulators to carry out a wide variety of tasks, from characterising the pond environment through to routine maintenance tasks and material retrievals. Using ROVs has proven to be safer, more efficient and cost-effective than available alternative technologies, and has made a significant impact on one of the most complex challenges of Sellafield’s decommissioning programme.

Commenting on the latest achievements of this long-running and very important project, JFN’s project manager for Sellafield, Phil Toomey said:

“The ROV trials have demonstrated that we can successfully sort, segregate and consolidate fuel between containers as well as from the floor to containers. We’ve moved more than 4,500kg of fuel rods using ROV technology, and some 50kg of spent fuel has been recovered from the pond floor and placed into containers ready for export.”

JFN now has a dedicated team of engineers and project managers to work on the Sellafield pond project, as well as a custom-built dive tank for ROV development, testing, and operator training based at its Egremont facility, near the Sellafield site.

JFN’s business development manager, Simon Pyne, recognises how this close relationship gives JFN unique expertise in the remote clearance of nuclear ponds:

“The team built strong relations with Sellafield and it’s the excellent levels of communication and collaboration that has facilitated successful delivery of reduced risk, operational efficiency and cost savings to our client.”

Further information

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

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