Cumbria

Demolition of Sellafield nuclear chimney under way

First concrete block removed from Sellafield tower Image copyright Sellafield Ltd
Image caption Diamond wire saws are being used to remove six-tonne slabs from the tower

Work has begun to dismantle a giant chimney at the scene of Britain's worst nuclear accident.

The first blocks of concrete have been removed from the 360ft (110m) structure, which has towered above what is now Sellafield for almost 70 years.

Workers using a specially-built 500ft (152m) crane are cutting out six-tonne concrete slabs with diamond wire saws.

In 1957 the chimney captured radioactive dust after a fire at the then Windscale nuclear reactor.

Image copyright Sellafield Ltd
Image caption A crane has been built around the tower so it can be safely taken down

The first section of the Windscale Pile One chimney to go is the square-shaped "diffuser" at the top - mockingly referred to as "Cockroft's Folly" after designer Sir John Cockroft - which will disappear by 2022.

Stuart Latham, head of remediation at Sellafield Ltd, said: "This is a huge step in our clean-up mission at Sellafield, so everyone is incredibly proud to see the first blocks safely removed.

"Not only does it reduce the risk associated with this historic, redundant stack, but it will also change the Sellafield skyline forever."

Because buildings containing nuclear material surround the stack, traditional demolition techniques like explosives cannot be used.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is overseeing work at the site, which is due to be fully decommissioned in 2120 at a cost of more than £70bn.

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