The first rail transfer of stainless steel drums of waste from the Winfrith Magnox site to Nuclear Waste Services' Low Level Waste Repository site has been completed. The waste's radiation levels have decayed sufficiently for it now to be reclassified as low-level waste.

The first consignent of drums arrives at the repository site (Image: NWS)

More than 1000 drums of waste from the Winfrith Steam Generating Heavy Water Reactor (SGHWR) - which ceased operations in 1990 - were placed in the Treated Radwaste store at the Dorset site, awaiting transfer to the intermediate level waste storage facility at the Harwell site in Oxfordshire. However, the period of radioactive decay means the drums are now classed as low-level, rather than intermediate-level, waste, allowing early disposal at the Low Level Waste Repository in Cumbria.

Winfrith Site Director Andrew Munro said the shipment is a "significant achievement" for the site and is a step closer to completing its decommissioning mission and returning the site to heathland with public access.

The drums will be transported by rail in cabriolet containers, arriving in multiple consignments. A new haul road has been undertaken to transport the drums to their final resting place within the repository, which is operated by Nuclear Waste Services. A drum posting system will be installed on the vault floor to aid in the location of the drum stacks and make the best use of available space. Disposal of the waste in single drums enables Nuclear Waste Services to utilise otherwise unusable space within the vault, reducing the amount of in-fill material required to close it.

In total, 11 consignments, each transporting ten cabriolet containers of ten drums, will arrive on site by rail transfer provided by Nuclear Transport Solutions at roughly 13 week intervals. The first emplacements will take place later this year, Howard Falconer, head of customer management at Nuclear Waste Services (Operations and Services), said.

"Seeing the first train depart Winfrith and arrive at the Repository is an exciting moment for everyone involved in the project," he said. "It is the result of over five years of collaborative planning and preparation by Nuclear Waste Services, Magnox Ltd, Nuclear Transport Solutions and our extensive supply chain partners involved in the delivery of this work, including Cyclife, React Engineering, PDL and Stobbarts, to mention but a few."

SGHWR was a 100 MWe prototype reactor which operated from 1968 until 1990, supplying electricity to the grid as well as performing its prime function of supporting research into water-cooled reactor technology. It is one of only two remaining reactors - both of which are being decommissioned - at Winfrith, which was home to nine experimental reactors at various times from the 1950s to the 1990s.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Tuesday, 29 March 2022
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