Specialist scuba divers are plumbing new depths to haul radioactive waste out of the nuclear fuel storage pond at Sizewell A. The team of American underwater experts tackled their first UK ‘nuclear dive’ at Dungeness A in 2016 where, wearing full protective suits and shielded from radiation by the water, they were able to cut up empty fuel storage skips and retrieve other pieces of submerged equipment. The ponds were used to store thousands of used nuclear fuel rods, held in metal skips, after they were discharged from the reactors. After the last of the fuel was transported to Sellafield for reprocessing, the skips and a range of redundant items, including sludge, were left behind in the water. Pond clean-out conventionally takes place using remotely operated equipment to lift the whole radioactive skips clear of the water, exposing them to the air, where they are carefully cut up before decontamination, storage and eventual disposal. This process is slow with potential radiation dose risks for workers. By doing the work under water, the divers can cut up the skips more safely, access awkward areas more easily, making the whole process safer, faster and more productive.
NDA 1st Feb 2018 read more »