Costain, the smart infrastructure solutions company, has been awarded a contract by Sellafield Ltd to demonstrate thermal treatment of drums of Plutonium Contaminated Material (PCM). The purpose of the trials is to show that thermal treatment technology is capable of substantial volume reduction of PCM drums, thereby providing an economic long-term waste route for this material.
It will see Costain and its partner Tetronics deploy its technology capabilities on simulated materials in a bespoke test environment, with the longer-term aim of minimising the costs and risks associated with reducing, and disposing of, the UK’s nuclear waste.
The PCM drums are a product of many years of reprocessing nuclear fuel at the Sellafield site and the plasma vitrification technology Costain will be using will significantly reduce volumes of plutonium-containing waste that require storage.
The trial, which is worth c. £250,000, is expected to run for a duration of six months, with potential for further development if the technology is proven successful.
Costain will use the same technology on the next phase of trials for the Ministry of Defence (MOD), which will demonstrate effective use of plasma vitrification to treat some of their radioactive waste. Costain was appointed to work on phase 2 of the MOD trials in February 2019.
Rob Phillips, Costain sector director, energy, commented: “I am delighted at the award of this contract which demonstrates Costain’s leading edge thinking in the area of nuclear waste management and active collaboration with our clients to shape the future of nuclear decommissioning. This technology could truly revolutionise the treatment of a huge volume legacy waste and significantly reduce the cost of the long-term storage to the UK taxpayer.”