Decommissioning represents an important part of the Cumbrian economy, but what does it entail and why is it so important? Stuart Mercer of WYG sheds light on this vital sector.

Sponsored content

Between the 1940s and 1960s, the then nascent nuclear industry produced a large amount of highly hazardous waste.

Several decades later, decommissioning experts are effectively removing this legacy waste from past generations, and storing it in a safe manner in order to protect the environment from risks of contamination.

It is, therefore, not solving a problem with today’s waste, but providing solutions to a problem we were left with decades ago.

Decommissioning demonstrates how solving shortcomings of the past can positively influence the future, as it has greatly enabled progress in the fields of safety, design and waste management.

By decommissioning a building, we learn how to make new structures and power plants safer and easier to dismantle at the end of their lives.

This “learning from experience” (or LFE) in the industry serves to drive the best designs for structures, buildings and plants now and in the future.

In the process, we are also significantly reducing risks caused by these high hazards by removing them from the environment.

Decommissioning is a highly skilled activity and it is also a team endeavour. 

There is no single company, or group of people that can undertake this responsibility.

This is why decommissioning activities are ideally suited to consortia. 

Sellafield, for instance, has appointed six consortia to their decommissioning partnership, including WYG as part of the Cumbria Nuclear Solutions Limited (CNSL) consortium.

This  collaborative working with groups of companies providing complementary skills is considered the way forward in the model.

Of course, decommissioning has also brought major socio-economic benefits to the region, by involving the local workforce and supply chain.

As a result, it has put Cumbria on the map for technical excellence, giving the region the chance to export those skills and knowledge both nationally and globally.

Solving our historic issues with waste has enabled a highly skilled and specialised workforce to be developed which will allow us to move forward with the nuclear new build programme with confidence.

Stuart Mercer, engineering director at WYG, is a chartered civil engineer with extensive experience of civil and structural design in the nuclear industry. He has recently worked on decommissioning a number of historic buildings at Sellafield.