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Storage of nuclear-powered submarine reactor pressure vessels

As part of its Submarine Dismantling Project, the Ministry of Defence is tasked with providing a safe, environmentally responsible and cost-effective solution for dismantling the UK’s nuclear-powered submarines after they have left the active service of the Royal Navy.

In 2015 Urenco Nuclear Stewardship was selected by the Ministry of Defence as the preferred site for storage and management of the de-fuelled and decommissioned Reactor Pressure Vessels (RPVs).

The project currently includes 27 RPVs and, given that some of the components will require storage until such a time as geological disposal is available, this will be a long term radioactive waste storage mission.

At the start of the storage contract, Urenco Nuclear Stewardship will provide the long term storage and management of the RPVs on the Capenhurst site until a disposal strategy is agreed.

In addition to the eventual storage of the items, we are currently supporting the Ministry of Defence in its development activities to identify the most appropriate way to solve the challenges associated with the transport and dismantling of such large reactor components.

Phased demolition of a former gaseous diffusion plant

The former Gaseous Diffusion plant is one of a series of integrated structures designed and constructed in the early 1950s at Capenhurst. Production at the plant ceased in the early 1980s and since then the various structures have been undergoing a programme of different stages of refurbishment, decommissioning and demolition. The purpose of this current project was to finally demolish the building and leave the area in a safe, remediated state, with hazards removed to allow the land to be developed at a later date for further industrial use.

A number of campaigns have completed significant radiological surveys, ensuring that Urenco Nuclear Stewardship has comprehensive characterisation data prior to beginning works, supporting a safe and proportionate approach and managing the diverse risks that exist within a facility of this nature.

Challenges overcome during the project delivery include:

  • Modification of and updates to the safety case to manage the transition between operations and decommissioning works
  • Waste disposal and environmental protection, taking opportunities to progress bulk disposal options with LLWR
  • Maintaining a proportionate security strategy and ensuring a proportionate design plan
  • Health, safety & environmental aspects addressed by the team, including a robust and thorough application of CDM 2015 duty holder positions
  • Managing services diversions for poorly defined and complex ageing assets
  • Managing key radiological, criticality, biological, working at height and asbestos hazards


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