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Sellafield silo installs second waste retrieval machine

03 March 2023

Last month, another silo emptying machine was fully built inside the Magnox Swarf Storage Silo, with the final piece of equipment – the main control cubicle – being lifted into the silo and fixed into position.

Image: Sellafield
Image: Sellafield

Standing in the oldest part of the Sellafield site, the Magnox Swarf Storage Silo has stored nuclear waste for the last 60 years and was originally constructed as six silos in the 1960’s and then extended three times.

This latest machine now sits fully assembled next to the first silo emptying machine, which has been busy retrieving waste out of Sellafield’s most hazardous building since April 2022.

These silo emptying machines are far bigger than any of the entry points into the silo, so have to be lifted in in 22 different modules and then assembled inside the legacy building.

The machines work by lowering a grab into the waste, lifting it back up and placing the waste into a metal skip which is gradually filled and then sent to a separate waste store in more modern, safe containment.

Weighing in at 360-tonnes and comprising of around 13,500 working parts, the design, manufacture and assembly of the first machine has been a job we started over two decades ago – reflecting the complexity of the task and the engineering behind the final design.

It will take another three years of preparation and commissioning work inside the silo before the machine actually starts retrieving waste.
Neil Rogerson, Senior Project Manager, Sellafield Ltd said: “This is a big moment for ‘machine number 2’ – we’ve fully rebuilt it inside the silo and can now start the job ahead of making it work.

“It’s been a challenging but rewarding project with a truly integrated team. I wouldn’t want to have been on any other job because nothing is as big as this in creating a clean and safe environment for future generations.”

All three machines were originally designed and manufactured in Wolverhampton by Ansaldo NES, and all are now under the wing of Sellafield Ltd and the Decommissioning Delivery Partnership Framework Partner – i3 Decommissioning Partners.

Mike Lacey, i3 Project Director said: “Delivering this project has taken real collaboration, determination and a one-team approach, with every single person working as dedicated nuclear professionals. Sellafield Ltd and i3 shared the same milestones target, so we can now share all the same recognition and success.”

Gary Kershaw is one of the i3 engineering team who assembled this second machine, he said: “It’s a big task involving lots of different skills: fitters, riggers, electricians and all the people behind the project too. At any given time during assembly there’ll be roughly a dozen people in our team working on site and half a dozen people at the off-site locations. Everyone knows just how important getting this right is.

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