News story

Landmark containers move radioactive waste from Harwell, Oxfordshire

Brand new high-precision containers have been used successfully for the first time to deliver radioactive waste from Harwell in Oxfordshire to Sellafield in Cumbria.

Novapak B stainless steel containers being transported
Novapak B stainless steel containers being transported

The Type B Novapak stainless steel containers were commissioned by the Low Level Waste Repository (LLWR), near Drigg, as part of its transport services, and will replace an existing fleet of containers for Intermediate Level Waste (ILW).

Each container is intricate to manufacture, requiring:

  • 12 welders
  • more than 750 welds
  • 1,500 items of material

The final containers provide 2 layers of thermal shielding and impact protection.

They will transport the Harwell ILW as well as plutonium-contaminated material (PCM) from the LLWR site to Sellafield for long-term storage.

LLWR’s Type B (Novapak) project team members were on hand to witness the historic initial delivery to Sellafield in the first pair of containers, which were manufactured by Cumbrian firm Bendalls Engineering at Carlisle.

Marc Goodwin, LLWR Project Support, said:

This is a key milestone for the NDA estate. The first pair have now returned empty to Harwell, to successfully complete the first full cycle.

The delivery of the second pair to LLWR will signal a re-start of transports by rail of legacy PCM for storage at Sellafield, which had been on hold for over 3 years until the Novapaks became available. Inactive handling trials will start in mid-September, before they enter service.

Alan Jackson, LLWR Programme Manager, said:

It has taken us over 2 years to get to this point, and it has been a huge team effort, involving Sellafield, Magnox Ltd Harwell, ourselves, Bendalls Engineering and the Design Authority Nuvia.

We’ve had a few issues along the way, but it’s the attitude that counts and the team was always been motivated to solve any problems and make progress. They’ve had a steely determination which was nice to see.

Bendalls won the £multi-million contract to produce six pairs of Novapaks, all of which will be completed and in service by mid-2018. Each package, around 2m³, will be in operation for a minimum of eight years and carry up to four, 200 litre drums of material.

Simon Williams, of Bendalls Engineering, said:

Turning ideas and design into an actual manufactured high specification piece of kit is always a challenge.

By working closely with the LLWR team and the Design Authority, we have together reached this significant milestone and captured a lot of learning and experience that can be applied to the remaining pairs yet to be manufactured.

In addition to supporting manufacture, Nuvia, through commercial arrangements with LLWR, will support the Novapaks’ full life cycle operation.

Find out more about Low Level Waste Repository in Cumbria

Find out more about radioactive waste in the UK

Published 22 September 2017