24 March 2005 – BNFL said Wednesday that its engineers at Sellafield have pumped hundreds of cubic metres of radioactive waste from a tank used to store it for the last fifty years – the latest stage in a project to remove and process radioactive waste from all six tanks in the Primary Sludge complex, which will take a further twelve years to fully complete.
The sludge resulted from the historic treatment of liquid effluents before they were discharged to sea. The Primary Sludge tanks began operations in the early 1950’s and operated until Sellafield’s Enhanced Actinide Removal Plant (EARP) came on stream in the 1990’s. The sludge from the first tank has been safely transferred to a high integrity buffer tank built to modern engineering standards in preparation for phased treatment through EARP and encapsulation in cement as intermediate level waste.
Emptying all six tanks will mean that detailed plans for the final decommissioning of the whole building can be made. The success of this stage has proved the process to continue to empty the remaining five tanks. Processing the sludge from all six tanks will take approximately twelve years.
The successful transfer has moved half of the total radiological inventory of the tank complex to the new buffer tank, and represents a significant contribution to meeting the sludge retrieval target for the whole of the Sellafield site.
Commenting on the achievement, John Clarke, Production Director, said: “The team surpassed expectations, achieving removal of more than 98 per cent of the total contents of the tank against a target of 95 per cent. Years of analysis and preparation have led to the successful completion of this critical first phase of the project, which included erecting a large containment building over the whole tank complex. Many people have contributed a significant proportion of their working life to this project, some having been involved as far back as fifteen years ago and I would like to congratulate everyone involved for making this such an outstanding success.”