Sellafield nuclear plant clean-up 'major breakthrough'

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Empty nuclear fuel skips in the First Generation Magnox Storage PondImage source, Sellafield Ltd
Image caption,
Old nuclear fuel skips have been brought up from the First Generation Magnox Storage Pond

There has been a "major breakthrough" in cleaning up stored nuclear waste at the Sellafield reprocessing plant, the company running it has said.

Empty nuclear fuel skips have been removed from the bottom of a storage pond at the site for the first time, Sellafield Ltd said.

One hundred containers have been lifted out of what management say is one of Europe's most hazardous facilities.

Head of legacy ponds Dorothy Gradden said it was a "game changer".

It was "the most significant step yet in getting clutter out of the pond", she said.

'Never thought about'

Appleby engineering firm Barrnon has built shielded containers to safely house the large metal boxes elsewhere on site.

More than 1,200 storage skips on the floor of the First Generation Magnox Storage Pond were originally used to store nuclear fuel for atomic weapons.

Head of operations Steve Wordsworth said the "actual care and maintenance of the skips and containers after their purpose was never thought about".

With them removed, it gives Sellafield "access to remove sludge and fuel from the pond floor itself", he said.

The open-air fuel pond, now 66 years old, is one of four buildings prioritised for clean-up by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

In June a National Audit Office (NAO) warned decommissioning the site faced continued delays and an overspend of up to £913m.

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