Energy minister praises decommissioning progress at Sellafield on first visit to site

Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom visited Sellafield to see the world-leading innovation being used to clean up the site.

The minister was shown the newly arrived Silo Emptying Plant (SEP) machine which will be used to scoop out the radioactive contents of one of site’s most hazardous buildings – the Magnox Swarf Storage Silo.

The silo, which dates back to the 1960s, is one of four aging storage waste storage plants at Sellafield prioritised for clean-up by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).

The mammoth SEP machine, weighing in at 400 tonnes, is one of three robotic retrieval systems that will sit on rails on top of the silo and lift waste out in a similar way to a fairground grabber machine.

Mrs Leadsom said: “It was fascinating to see first-hand the size and scale of the clean-up challenge at Sellafield and the incredibly innovative ways these are being overcome.

“Sellafield has played a key role in UK industrial history, pioneering the development of nuclear power, and is now a global leader in decommissioning, developing skills and expertise which we are already exporting around the world.”

The minister was accompanied by NDA chief executive John Clarke, the authority’s chairman Stephen Henwood and Sellafield Ltd managing director Paul Foster.

Mr Clarke said: “I was delighted to show the minister the excellent progress we’re making in the decommissioning programme at Sellafield, the most complex nuclear site in the UK.

“There is a pleasing momentum building in the clean-up of Sellafield’s legacy plants. This is demonstrated by the arrival of the SEP machine at the Magnox Swarf Storage Silos which represents a huge step forward in the clean-up of one of the most hazardous buildings on the site.”

Mr Foster added: “The skills and expertise in the Sellafield Ltd workforce are the best in the world and I was pleased to show the minister how we are responding to the unique challenges the site presents.

“We are committed to ensuring that the investment the Government makes in Sellafield generates a return through the development of skills and capability that put the UK at the forefront of nuclear decommissioning industry.”