Oil and Gas clean-up tech adapted for nuclear industry at Magnox Harwell saves £millions says government

Harwell Magnox nuclear site

Technology commonly used in the oil and gas industry has been adapted for use in the nuclear industry for Magnox Harwell, resulting in millions of pounds in savings for the taxpayer says the government.

Harwell is the birthplace of the UK nuclear industry. Originally an RAF station, it became Britain’s Atomic Energy Research Establishment in 1946. There were 14 experimental reactors on the site, with three remaining today.

A treatment process involving use of ultra high pressure water jetting to clean 1.2 tonne sections of pipework contaminated with low levels of radioactive scale, has been provided by LLW Repository Ltd (LLWR) through its Metallic Waste Treatment Service, and Augean’s Port Clarence Facility.

LLW Repository Ltd is responsible for the UK’s primary facility for the disposal of low level radioactive waste.

Harwell excavated around 1,600 pipeline sections from its Offsite Discharge Pipeline that previously carried aqueous waste along an underground route for approximately 9km to an authorised discharge point and placed them into storage pending treatment and disposal.

Carly Sutton, Waste Management Services Consultant and Magnox Relationship Manager at LLWR, said: ”By adapting a proven technology and applying it to the treatment of this pipework, the amount of waste that would otherwise need to be consigned to the LLW Repository has been drastically reduced and only small volumes of secondary waste will need processing for onward treatment and disposal.

“The clean pipe sections are suitable for recycling back into the metal market providing multi million pound savings to the UK taxpayer.”

The approach is driven by the requirements of the Waste Hierarchy and meeting Best Available Techniques (BAT).

In addition, a bespoke transport system was developed for the pipework which has significantly reduced the number of transports required by increasing the number of sections that can be sent at any one time from Harwell to Port Clarence, at Stockton on Tees, reducing the potential carbon footprint.

All Offsite Discharge Pipeline sections are expected to have been treated and recycled by the end of March 2022.