The second and final shipment of high-level waste (HLW) from the UK to Switzerland has been completed. The waste resulted from the reprocessing and recycling of used nuclear fuel from Swiss nuclear power plants at Sellafield.

One of the four flasks on its route from Sellafield to Zwilag (Image: Sellafield Ltd)

The consignment - comprising four flasks, each containing 28 containers of HLW in the form of vitrified residues - was delivered to the central Zwilag interim waste management facility at Würenlingen on 13 October, International Nuclear Services (INS) announced today.

INS - a subsidiary of the UK's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority - said the flasks were loaded on to the specialist nuclear transport vessel Oceanic Pintail and sailed from Barrow on 7 October. The vessel shipped them to the port of Cherbourg in northern France, from where they were transported by rail to Switzerland. INS said it contracted with its historical partner Areva to safely manage the overland transport in France.

The waste originally came from used fuel from Swiss nuclear power plants operated by utilities Axpo and BKW Energie. The fuel has been reprocessed at Sellafield's Thorp facility to reduce its volume and to recover fuel materials for recycling. The waste itself takes the form of a solid borosilicate glass matrix that immobilises highly radioactive fission products. This is held in stainless steel canisters. This form is suitable for permanent disposal and can be handled separately from intermediate-level wastes, which require less complex management, and the recovered uranium and plutonium that can be incorporated into new reactor fuel.

The shipment is the latest in a program to return foreign-owned waste stored in the UK to its country of origin. The Vitrified Residue Return (VRR) program - a partnership between Sellafield and INS - will see waste from UK reprocessing services returned to overseas customers in Japan, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and Italy over a ten-year period. This will involve 11 shipments to transfer a total of 1850 canisters. The first shipment was completed in 2010.

INS managing director Mark Jervis said, "The completion of the second and final shipment of waste to Switzerland represents a significant milestone in the UK government's strategy to return highly active waste from Sellafield to overseas customers." He added, "Once again INS and its Barrow-based fleet of specialist nuclear carriers has demonstrated its ability to deliver complex transports safely and securely."

The first HLW shipment from the UK to Switzerland comprised of waste from the reprocessing of fuel for the Swiss utility Kernkraftwerk Gösgen-Däniken AG. This shipment - a consignment of three flasks, each containing 28 containers of vitrified residues - was delivered to Zwilag in September 2015.

Sellafield's VRR program manager Will Watson noted, "This is the completion of the third European return of highly active waste from Sellafield, and continues the program of successful overseas returns."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News

Date: Monday, 17 October 2016
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