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Stainless steel waste boxes ready for Sellafield

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Two firms, Darchem Engineering in Stockton-on-Tees and Metalcraft in Cambridgeshire, both in the UK have finished manufacturing the first batch of highly engineered stainless steel containers designed to store hazardous material from Sellafield nuclear power station.

A total of 2,200 stainless boxes will be needed to hold legacy waste from one of the world’s oldest nuclear stores, the pile fuel cladding silo at Sellafield.

Glenn McCracken, head of decommissioning for Sellafield Ltd, said: “We’re on the brink of seeing waste retrievals starting from our two legacy silos, and expect to start getting the waste out of both facilities next year. That will be a massive moment, but before getting the waste out, we need to be sure that it has got somewhere safe to go to. That means having enough boxes ready to be filled and having the confidence that a conveyor belt of production will be delivering a steady stream of them.”

Engineered to allow any hydrogen to be safely vented, the boxes will be needed as the contents of the silo are emptied over the next 10-12 years. The 1.3-tonne boxes are made from duplex steel, stronger and more resistant to corrosion than typical stainless steel, and designed to last for at least 500 years.

Large parts of the box production process have been automated, with Sellafield Ltd investing in a robotic welding machine at Metalcraft and a semi-automated welding machine at Darchem (the automation makes a three-hour manual welding process take just four minutes).

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