ONE of the biggest tasks in the clean-up of Sellafield is halfway to completion.

Workers have now removed 50 per cent of the radioactivity from the site’s oldest nuclear fuel pond.

The milestone was achieved this month when the final ‘canned fuel’ was transferred from the facility to a modern handling plant, operated by the National Nuclear Laboratory.

The Pile Fuel Storage Pond is a relic from the Cold War when Sellafield produced material for the UK’s nuclear deterrent. It is one of four high hazard facilities on the site prioritised for clean-up by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. 

It needs to have its contents removed so it can be drained and demolished.

The fuel stored there is several decades old, some of it is in a fragile state, and the pond building itself had to undergo many years of improvements to be able to withstand retrieval operations.

Work is ongoing around-the-clock to remove the remaining contents of the pond, including ‘metal fuel’, which is expected to be cleared by April next year.

Once achieved, more than 70 per cent of the pond’s radioactivity will have been removed.

Attention will then switch to clearing other wastes, including sludge.

The date at which the pond will be ready for draining has been brought forward 21 years since the 2011 estimate and is on track to shave £700m from the original estimated cost.