The first active shipment of legacy waste drums from Magnox Harwell in Oxfordshire, England, to Sellafield in Cumbria has been completed using the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority's (NDA's) Type B Gemini container fleet following a two-year refurbishment project.
Drums of intermediate-level waste are loaded into a Gemini package at Harwell (Image: Magnox)
Around 800 concrete-lined drums of intermediate-level radioactive waste will be transferred over the next three years for interim storage at Sellafield under the project, which forms a critical part of the NDA's Nuclear Materials Transfer (NMT) programme, ahead of eventual disposal in a geological disposal facility.
Orano TN manufactured and delivered three TN Gemini specialist packages to the NDA in early 2000. These had been used to transport waste drums from waste management company LLW Repository Ltd (LLWR) to Sellafield for a couple of years from 2006 but then remained unused for several years before being released to Magnox.
Orano TN was awarded a contract in June 2018 by LLWR that included the modernisation and maintenance of the three Gemini packages, owned by the NDA, with the supply of logistical equipment approved by the French Nuclear Safety Authority that will facilitate the transport of legacy waste stored on Magnox sites in TN Gemini containers.
As part of Nuclear Waste Services' (NWS's) Type B programme, the three TN Gemini packages spent two years in France with Orano NPS undergoing a condition assessment and refurbishment before undergoing extensive site acceptance testing at Sellafield and Harwell to ensure their readiness for a return to service.
"The Gemini fleet was brought back into service specifically for its role in this project and the launch of shipments is a major milestone for the NDA Site Decommissioning and National Waste Management Strategy, its Nuclear Material Transfer Programme, and for NWS's Type B Packaging Programme," said NWS Type B Programme Manager Steve Chester.
"Teamwork proved vital to the success of the project with an integrated programme/project management strategic approach adopted, led by NWS, with Sellafield, Magnox and Orano NPS, to manage risk and respective site interfaces, and drive efficiencies wherever possible."
Harwell was established in 1946 as Britain's first Atomic Energy Research Establishment. The site accommodated five research reactors of various types. Harwell also had a number of other nuclear research facilities, together with plutonium handling facilities, radioactive laboratories, nuclear waste treatment and storage facilities.
Decommissioning at Harwell is well under way - two of the reactors have been completely dismantled, and the fuel has been removed from the remaining three which are now in decommissioning. More than 100 other facilities have been removed from the site and others are being decommissioned. Historic wastes are being retrieved from their existing storage locations and repackaged for longer-term storage and eventual disposal.