Studsvik UK’s metal recycling facility (MRF) near Workington in Cumbria aims to safely decontaminate and recycle low level waste from UK nuclear sites, mainly scrap metal. The facility, whose capacity is estimated at 2000 t/yr, is the first of its type in the country, on the first new nuclear licensed site in the UK for 20 years. In 2009, the facility processed its first consignment of waste, 12 half-height ISO containers of scrap metal. It was reduced to less than 98% of its original size and weight, down to a mere 0.5m3, to be disposed of at the Low Level Waste Repository.

Material is processed step by step. After inspecting waste that has been received to confirm it has been accurately characterised, experienced operators manually sort the waste into size and material types. Studsvik employs hot and cold size reduction methods. Cold cutting is carried out by bandsaw or shears. Hot cutting is performed by plasma arc or an oxy-fuel system called Petrogen that utilises petroleum and oxygen to cut carbon steel up to 300mm thick. Other equipment on site includes a cable-stripping machine to remove the contaminated outer sheaths of cables and two shot-blasting decontamination machines.

Once the metal has been assayed and cleared for release, it is transferred to a scrap metal merchant for onward sale. Contaminated material is sent to the LLWR.

“The culture change is for companies to recognize there is a straightforward route to the MRF instead of the LLWR but this requires the correct authorisations to be in place,” says facility manager Mike McMullen.

Studsvik also treats LLW and ILW dry, combustible and metallic waste by incineration and melting at a 20-year-old facility near Nyköping, Sweden. It also treats wet waste in facilities in Erwin and Memphis, Tennessee.

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