The U.K.’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is set to launch next month a four-year research effort on waste treatment technologies with Sellafield Limited, the National Nuclear Laboratory, numerous U.K. universities and other partners, the NDA announced this week. The program is expected to cost £8-£9 million ($13.2 million to $14.8 million) and will be partially funded by a £4.9 million ($8.1 million) grant from the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council, as well as contributions from the Lab, NDA, Sellafield Ltd., and consortium of 10 universities, led by the University of Leeds.
The program is called “DISTINCTIVE,” based on Decommissioning, Immobilization and Storage Solutions for Nuclear Waste Inventories, and will have four themes: spent fuel, plutonium oxide and fuel residues, legacy ponds and silos wastes, and infrastructure, characterization, restoration and preservation. Melanie Brownridge, the NDA’s head of research and development, said in a statement, “Our industry benefits hugely when high-level academic research is focused at some of the challenges we face in decommissioning our nuclear legacy. We welcome this collaboration and look forward to seeing the progress that these important projects will deliver.”
Effort Could Aid Sellafield
In particular, the effort could help Sellafield tackle some of its major issues. “Today Sellafield faces a challenge where there is no blueprint; emptying and demolishing some of the most difficult and complex nuclear buildings in the world—the decommissioning of historic reactors, reprocessing facilities and associated legacy ponds and Silos,” Sellafield, Ltd. Research Alliance Manager Neil Smart said in a statement. “This massive challenge is however an opportunity to demonstrate that Sellafield is still at the forefront of the UK’s nuclear industry and we are delighted that the EPSRC is supporting appropriate academic research that will contribute to the scientific and technical underpinning of our mission. We look forward to engaging in these projects and benefiting from the outcomes, not only in terms of the science and technology but also skilled people developed through these projects with the potential to enhance our workforce long into the future.”