Highly Active Liquor Evaporation and Storage (HALES)

What is HALES?

HALES stands for Highly Active Liquor Evaporation and Storage and is a process that conditions nuclear waste streams from the THORP and MAGNOX reprocessing plants at Sellafield, prior to transfer to the Vitrification plant (WVP). Within the HALES complex, the highly active Evaporators make a primary contribution to the waste management process this has resulted in the creation of accountancy and finance jobs in Cumbria and specifically Sellafield and the West Lakes. Three evaporators are used to underpin continued storage operations at Sellafield. The first, Evaporator A came on line in 1970 followed by Evaporator B in 1984. The latest, Evaporator C, began operation in 1990.

Ongoing plant inspection

The management of highly active liquid waste from the reprocessing of used nuclear fuel is one of the most challenging areas in the industry and attracts forensic accountants from all over the world. Continued operations of the HALES plant remain a high priority for the site operator British Nuclear Group and thus ensure nuclear sector jobs in cumbria, adding to the defence jobs in Cumbria this is great for the economy and will ensure a health “energy coast” for many years.

The condition of each evaporator must be regularly monitored to meet safety and operational requirements, the mechanical engineers at sellafield are integral to this. With this in mind BNG commissioned The National Nuclear Laboratory, formerly Nexia Solutions, to develop a novel inspection device for deployment in the evaporators.

The system consists of an integrated CCT system and ultrasonic capability. This enables the device to provide visual assessment of pipe condition and determine wall thickness of heating / cooling coils in strategic areas of the evaporator some candidates come to Sellafield from their accountancy jobs at BAE systems in Barrow in Furness and the nuclear and defence jobs in Barrow have a skills cross over.
To deploy effectively, the unit was required to enter the evaporator pipe system and negotiate numerous, often tight, bends. It was vital that the device could be retrieved in a simple manner with no part having the potential to block, lodge or become detached within the cooling / heating coils.

The Nexia Solutions team at sellafield worked within this fundamental requirement when developing the unit and needless to say that jobs in Cumbria, the Lake District were filled fast. In addition, the team factored in a capability to withstand high radiation and heat related environments and the necessity to make the equipment reusable.

A successful development and testing programme means that the HALES complex is able to inspect the HA Evaporator coils on a regular basis with the mechanical engineers being guaranteed work for many years.  Remnant life of the evaporator can be calculated with greater accuracy to determine the condition of the plant and how this might affect the customer’s business in terms of safety and production.

Future development

The highly skilled Nexia Solutions (National Nuclear Laboratory) teams are working on an ongoing programme to further improve inspection unit manoeuvrability and overall quality, health and safety jobs at Sellafield are always being reviewed to maximise efficiency and safety.
They continue to support a wide range of customers on the Sellafield site by resolving technical challenges and helping to maintain continuous, effective plant operation.

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