Since the inception of the NDA in 2005, we have recognised the vital task of tackling the open-air storage ponds at Sellafield.
These legacy facilities represent our number one decommissioning priority.
Currently, the NDA spends £1.8bn a year at Sellafield – two thirds of its annual budget. And of this £1.8bn, one third is spent on these plants.
Work goes on around the clock, seven days a week to ensure they remain safe and secure whilst the technically complex task of retrieving and treating the various types of material the ponds contain is being progressed.
More than 100 tonnes of contaminated equipment has been removed from the Pile Fuel Storage Pond.
Fuel is being removed continually from that facility and we expect it to be empty and ready to be drained of water within five years.
By the end of this financial year, large amounts of radioactive sludge will begin to be pumped out of the First Generation Magnox Storage Pond.
Work goes on every day at this pond to prepare it for the removal of its contents.
The pond’s overhead crane, which had been out of action since the 1990s, has been fixed and is now being used again.
Underwater vehicles are being used to pick up spilt fuel rods from the pond floor – this is world leading innovation.
Progress is also continuing on building the new facilities which will treat and store the material once it’s taken out of the ponds. Just this year, a new sludge handling plant opened – a key enabler to the ponds programme.
Nobody should be under any illusions – this is difficult and potentially hazardous work which is expensive and takes a long time to complete.
But neither the NDA nor Sellafield Ltd is complacent about the need to remain focussed on the task and to drive safe decommissioning progress.