15 Oct Shakespeare Foundry power Sellafield clean-up

Shakespeare Foundry has begun manufacturing containers to store radioactive waste from one of the UK’s most important nuclear decommissioning projects.

The first steps have now been taken on the production of the first of the 33-tonne metal containers. Shakespeare Foundry is producing self-shielded box castings which, after machining and assembly, will store legacy waste from the First Generation Magnox Storage Pond at Sellafield.

The 66-year old open-air pond was originally used to store nuclear fuel from the UK’s first generation of nuclear power stations. It has been prioritised for clean-up by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. The clean-up work requires the manufacture of hundreds of boxes to store material taken out of the facility. The final number needed is still to be decided but the work could ultimately be worth between £50m and £100m.

The first steps have now been taken on the production of the first of the 33-tonne metal containers.  The furane sand mould is assembled using a complex 3 dimensional, 10 piece, assembly technique, designed, engineered and produced by Shakespeare Foundry. More than 30t of ductile iron is poured into the mould and allowed to cool, under controlled conditions.  Cooling is measured in weeks rather than minutes, or even hours. The first box was dispatched from the foundry (see photo), and is currently undergoing machining operations.

‘Successfully dispatching the first box and lid under the incredibly tight levels of dimensional accuracy, material expectations and tolerancing requirements, coupled with the challenging levels of surface and volumetric inspection, all carried out under witness inspection criteria, is testament to the extremely high levels of skill and commitment of our team here at Shakespeare Foundry’ said Stephen Lown, General Manager .  ‘Having been involved in the complex design ‘journey’ for the last 18 months,’ continued Stephen ‘ it is great to see the fruits of all the hard work leave site on the back of a truck, with 100s more to follow.’

Later this year, the final step of the first boxes’ journey will be to Workington where seals, filters, process ports with a complex helical internal shape (also manufactured by Shakespeare Foundry) and bolts will be assembled before they are transported to Sellafield.  Once the boxes are on the site they will be filled with waste and stored in a newly-constructed interim waste store from early 2019.

Dorothy Gradden, Head of Legacy Ponds at Sellafield, said: “The arrival of the waste boxes on site will be another landmark in cleaning up the most hazardous facilities on the Sellafield site.  This is the Northern Powerhouse in action – a chain of manufacturing specialists, some of whom are delivering products for the nuclear industry for the first time, are stepping up and helping us achieve one of the most important projects in decommissioning the UK’s civil nuclear legacy.”

All of this work has been managed by the primary contractor, Westinghouse, based in the North West of England, which won a multi-million pound contract to manufacture up to 750 of these self-shielded boxes.  Tremendous progress has been made to remove fuel and sludge from the pond since retrieval work began in April 2016.

The self-shielded boxes will also be used to store skips of zeolite, a filter mineral used to absorb radioactive particles from the pond water in order to make it safer for nuclear workers during the plant’s 30-year operational life.

Angela Mason
Angela Mason