THE equivalent of five football fields of space has been freed up at the Sellafield nuclear site in seven years.

A ton of buildings have now been demolished as the programme to clean up the historic nuclear site swings into action.

Since work started on decommissioning in 2007, facilities including legacy chemical plants, old research and development facilities, waste stores and reactor cooling towers have been demolished. 

Steve Slater, head of decommissioning said: “There are over 1300 facilities at Sellafield which will all need to be decommissioned over the next 100 years or more – but reaching our first century is a significant achievement.

“One of the challenges at Sellafield is that we need to build new plants and modern stores in order to safely decommission older ones, but the site is relatively small and space is at a premium.

“Demolition of the 100 buildings has released over 35,000 square metres of real estate – equivalent in size to five football fields – and that is really useful to us as we plan more clean up work.

“We’re using the extra room to help us retrieve, process and re-package historic nuclear waste to make it safe for long term storage and disposal."

The job of decommissioning Sellafield is going to take over 100 years, with the decommissioning programme stretching out to 2120. 

Work is currently concentrating on high priority projects where the historic buildings are deteriorating and the nuclear waste is no longer stored to modern standards.

One of the most dramatic demolition projects so far has been the explosive demolition of the 88 metre high concrete cooling towers associated with the world’s first commercial nuclear power station, Calder Hall which ceased generation electricity in 2003. 

The four cooling towers were safely demolished in September 2007.

Jack DeVine, the Chief Decommissioning Officer for Sellafield Ltd, who is seconded to the site from parent body organisation Nuclear Management Partners, said: “When NMP came onto the site in 2008 we were impressed with the way the decommissioning progamme had started, and the spectacular footage of the Calder Hall cooling towers had been seen around the world.

“From day one decommissioning and hazard reduction at Sellafield has been, and remains a major priority for us and to reach this milestone is a significant achievement.”

Geoff Carver, Demolition Delivery Manager said: “We’re totally committed to cleaning up the Sellafield site and one of our problems is often the lack of space available to build new, modern waste processing and storage facilities for the historic radioactive waste. 

"The demolition of redundant buildings is cost effective as it saves on maintenance and asset care costs, and it provides valuable space on the congested Sellafield site.

“Contrary to what you might think, often the hazards we encounter demolishing buildings are conventional rather than nuclear.  

"We’ve had to demolish a large number of redundant facilities which contain hazardous asbestos materials.  Skilled operators are employed to ensure that the buildings are demolished safely and the waste managed in a responsible manner.”