UK’s Sellafield arguably the world’s most risky nuclear waste site

Shocking state of world’s riskiest nuclear waste site New Scientist 21 January 2015 by Fred PearceURGENT clean-up of two of the world’s most dangerous radioactive waste stores will be delayed by at least five years, despite growing safety fears.

  • The waste is stored at the UK’s Sellafield nuclear reprocessing site, which holds radioactive waste dating back to the dawn of the nuclear age. An accident at the derelict site could release radioactive materials into the air over the UK and beyond…….
  • the exact contents of the ponds are unclear, says Paul Howarth, managing director of the government-owned National Nuclear Laboratory at Sellafield. “We have to do a lot of R&D just to characterise the inventory, before we can work out how to retrieve the materials.”

    And the problem is just going to get worse. When plants are decommissioned in the future, waste will still be sent to Sellafield. ……..http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22530053.800-shocking-state-of-worlds-riskiest-nuclear-waste-site.html#.VMGDudKUcnk

Danger areas

Pile 1 is one of the two original reactors built to support the UK atomic bomb project. It is where the country’s worst nuclear accident took place, when the reactor core caught fire in 1957. Once the fire was extinguished the core was sealed and it is considered best left alone for now.

Pile fuel storage pond took in spent fuel from both the weapons reactors and energy reactors. The radioactive waste and sludge formed from the storage process sit in a deteriorating concrete structure filled with water. Removal of the sludge is under way. This pond has sat unused since the 1970s.

Pile fuel cladding silo is jammed with 3200 cubic metres of aluminium cladding, which surrounds the fuel rods, much of it from 1950s weapons reactors. It has been sealed since the mid-1960s but corrosion means there is a risk that hydrogen will form, which could lead to explosions.

Magnox spent fuel storage pond is considered the most dangerous industrial building in Europe. The 150-metre-long open-air pond is visited by birds and cracks have caused radioactive material to leak into the soil. No one knows exactly what’s in there, but it may contain a tonne of plutonium.

Magnox swarf storage silo is considered the second most dangerous industrial building in Europe. It stores waste magnesium fuel cladding under water. Some sludge has leaked through cracks in the concrete, and there is a risk of explosion from hydrogen released by corrosion of storage vesse

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