Sellafield Waste Packaging and Encapsulation Plants

Introduction

Waste packaging and encapsulation is a process used to ensure the long term safe storage of intermediate-level waste (ILW) and has heavy input from and thus results in the creation of design engineering jobs in Cumbria and then mechanical engineering jobs Cumbria for the deployment.
This waste would typically include such items as fuel element cladding, contaminated equipment and sludge wastes from spent fuel reprocessing.

The Waste Packaging and Encapsulation Plants at Sellafield

There are a number of ILW packing plants operating at Sellafield.

Similar plants are also operating at Dounreay, Harwell, Trawsfynydd and Winfrith and further packaging plants are being built and planned.

The basic procedures used in all of these plants is very similar.
• Some wastes are first treated to reduce their water content to an optimum level for packaging
• Certain types of material and small items of equipment can be supercompacted prior to encapsulation
• Some solid wastes are cut up to reduce their size
• The waste is put into stainless steel drums, or concrete boxes, which are then filled with cement.  These drums are lidded, washed and monitored
• The drums are then stored in a specially engineered above-ground modern storage facility

Future Storage options

An independent Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) was appointed to make recommendations for the long-term management of UK’s higher activity wastes that would protect the public and the environment, and inspire public confidence whilst creating nuclear jobs.

The challenge in managing these wastes is that, as they remain a potential hazard for thousands of years, their radioactivity must be isolated from people and the environment for this length of time; this further ensures that engineering jobs in sellafield are secured for the long term and that Cumbria and the lake district have a stable economy.

CoRWM reported in 2006 with a package of recommendations including geological disposal, preceded by safe and secure interim storage. The UK Government has accepted that secure interim storage is essential, and has consulted on a framework for implementing geological disposal.

The government is looking to use an approach based on voluntarism and partnership with local communities, coupled with the use of appropriate site screening and assessment criteria as the basis for the location of a geological disposal facility.  Overseas experience suggests that such an approach is likely to be an effective way of addressing the concerns of communities about hosting such a facility. Engineering jobs could be created elsewhere such as Whitehaven, Workington or Kendal as the Government looks at new sites that will create nuclear engineering jobs in Cumbria, the Lake District.

The UK government has invited communities to express an interest in taking part in the process that will ultimately provide a site for a geological disposal facility.  The NDA is the implementing organisation, responsible for planning and delivering the geological disposal facility and, as part of this process, will engage with communities and other stakeholders.

Jobs for the future

Due to the nature of the materials involved, and the necessity to provide safe storage for thousands of years, all engineering projects involving storage of higher activity wastes will ensure ongoing, long term, job opportunities and thus engineering vacancies in Cumbria and Sellafield, covering a wide range of skills.

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