UK set to return vitrified waste

29 September 2009

The UK is ready to start sending the vitrified high-level waste resulting from the reprocessing of used nuclear fuel from overseas back to its country of origin.

The contracts to return the high level waste to Japanese and European customers now sit with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. The programme of work to transport canisters of vitrified (solid glass) waste to customers is known in the UK as the Vitrified Residue Returns (VRR) programme.

The NDA has received advice from Sellafield Ltd and the NDA's commercial and transport subsidiary, International Nuclear Services that the infrastructure is in place and plans are sufficiently advanced to begin of the VRR programme in the current financial year, which ends April 2010, subject to necessary authorisations and detailed timings to be agreed with Regulators, Customers and Government departments in the UK and overseas.

Overall the UK phase of the programme will return approximately 1850 containers of vitrified waste to overseas customers and will include a number of containers being returned in accordance with the Government policy on waste substitution. The VRR programme, which will substantially reduce the amount of highly active waste currently stored in the UK at Sellafield, is planned to take around 10 years and will be a continuation of the established transport programme from France.

The canisters are transported inside specially shielded transport flasks and on vessels designed and approved to meet all relevant national and international regulations relating to the transport of nuclear materials.

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