The Windscale Piles
Following the decision taken by the British government in January 1947 to develop nuclear weapons and nuclear jobs, Sellafield was chosen as the location of the plutonium production plant, with the initial fuel loading into the Windscale Piles commencing in July 1950, these were the first nuclear accountancy vacancies in Cumbria and the creation of senior Sellafield jobs began.
Since then, the Sellafield skyline has been dominated by the two tall chimney-like structures of the pile 1 and 2 reactors.
By July 1952 the separation plant was being used to separate plutonium and uranium from spent fuel, accountancy jobs at Sellafield were created and filled.
Unlike the early US reactors at Hanford, which consisted of a graphite core cooled by water, the Windscale Piles consisted of a graphite core cooled by air. Each pile contained almost 2000 tonnes of graphite, and measured over 7.3 metres high by 15.2 metres in diameter. Fuel for the reactor consisted of rods of uranium metal, approximately 30 centimetres long by 2.5 centimetres in diameter, and clad in aluminium, the accounts and internal audit jobs in Cumbria were becoming advertised nationwide to attract the right quality of candidate.
The Pile Fire
The Windscale Piles were shut down following a fire in Pile 1 on 10th October 1957 which destroyed the core and released radioactive material into the surrounding environment, including Iodine-131, which is taken up in the human body by the thyroid. Consequently milk and other produce from the surrounding farming areas had to be destroyed; this had a massive impact on the Cumbrian economy and thus on jobs in Cumbria, applications for engineering Jobs BAE Barrow In Furness soared as the move was away from engineering jobs Sellafield. Applications to Ulverston, Kendal and south lakes firms all rose during this time. Following the fire Pile 1 was unserviceable and Pile 2, although undamaged by the fire, was shut down as a precaution, by this time the UK had enough plutonium for some atomic bombs.
One of the most visual examples of decommissioning is the removal of the two 400ft high Windsale Pile chimneys, the structural engineers were called in and the jobs were of course temporary jobs in Cumbria.
In the mid 1980s, following a structural survey, a decision was made to remove the upper 30-meter section of each chimney. Following the successful removal of this section from the Pile 2 chimney the decision was taken to decommission the chimney to below the height of the reactor building.
In the 1990s, the United Kingdom Atomic Authority started to implement plans to further decommission, disassemble and clean up both piles.
In September 1997, the UKAEA awarded its largest decommissioning contract to date. A consortium led by British Nuclear Fuels Limited (BNFL) won the contract to dismantle and remove for treatment and storage the core of Pile One at Windscale.
The eight-year program of work, valued at £54 million, involves the remote dismantling of the core using four heavy duty manipulators which will penetrate through the roof of the core’s biological shield this has created accounting and accountancy jobs in Cumbria and ACA jobs in the Lake District. The Pile, a stack of some 2,000 tonnes of graphite blocks, has been in a state of safe care and maintenance since the October 1957 fire. Its core contains an estimated 15 tonnes of damaged fuel. Pile Two, which was unaffected by the fire and which was defuelled at the time, will be put on a care and maintenance regime, ensuring finance and audit jobs in Cumbria for many many years to come.
Pile decommissioning is ongoing with an estimated completion date of 2037.
This is just one of the many decommissioning projects which will ensure long term job opportunities for a wide range of Scientific, Technical and accountancy skills for many years into the future.