The first radioactive sludge has been removed from the UK's Sellafield nuclear site, marking a “major step forward” in its clean-up.
About 1,500 cubic metres of sludge needs to be emptied from an area dating back to the 1950s which was built to store used nuclear fuel for recycling.
“We’re making history at Sellafield by transferring the first sludge using a tried-and-tested pump to a new £240 million state-of-the-art sludge storage plant containing three enormous stainless steel buffer storage vessels, each of which is the same volume as seven double decker buses,” said spokesman Martin Leafe.
“The pond is six metres deep and we’ve spent years devising an engineering solution to literally suck up the radioactive sludge from the bottom of the pond, which in places is over one metre deep.
“What makes the job more difficult is that the pond is very congested and full of large metal boxes containing nuclear fuel, so we need to work around these and ensure these remain fully submerged at all times.
“Just to make matters more difficult we have to drive the platform remotely from a control cabin to minimise the radiation dose to the workforce.”