The UK’s Cavendish Nuclear has begun installing a new waste treatment plant to support continued remediation at the site of the Berkeley nuclear plant – the world’s first commercial plant. The two-unit magnox station operated from 1962 until 1989.

Cavendish said the first of the modular facilities to process and package containerised waste from the Berkeley vaults has arrived on site. They will be assembled and connected to an existing waste retrieval facility also designed and built by Cavendish Nuclear over the next 12 months.

This latest package of work will enable Magnox Ltd, on behalf of the site’s owner the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), to process and package more than 6000 containers of radioactive waste that were deposited in the vaults during the 1950s and 1960s.

“Our overarching commitment to delivering fit for purpose solutions and design innovation, coupled with modularization, is enabling Cavendish Nuclear to deliver systems that are safer, quicker and more cost-effective to customers dealing with historic waste liabilities,” said Paul Smith, managing director of nuclear services at Cavendish Nuclear.

The waste came from the Berkeley power station and the adjacent technical laboratories that carried out research. The two reactors are already in a safe state and the laboratory site has been regenerated as an engineering campus, leaving environmental remediation of the vaults as one of the last major clean-up challenges at the site.

Cavendish Nuclear has worked with Magnox Ltd, on the remediation since 2010, developing designs and procuring the retrieval equipment needed to clear the vaults of their radioactive inventory. Following the installation in 2016 of equipment to retrieve the waste and process and package the fuel element debris, the company is now looking to process and package the remaining waste types. A modular design and build strategy was chosen to maximise the construction and testing that can be carried out off-site.

The completed modules will be assembled at Cavendish's workshops in Whetstone, Leicestershire and at a supplier’s facilities in Barnsley, and are scheduled for delivery and installation over the next three months. The construction phase is expected to be completed by the end of 2018. This will be followed by a period of inactive commissioning, leading to the handover of the plant to Magnox Ltd in autumn 2019.