Decommissioning, Immobilisation and Storage
soluTIons for NuClear wasTe InVEntories


DISTINCTIVE is a multi-disciplinary collaboration of 10 universities and 3 key industry partners from across the UK’s civil nuclear sector.


Reactor site or Radioactive Plant

Nuclear fuel reprocessing dates back to the early 1950s and many of the plants used at that time are still present at the Sellafield site and other sites throughout the UK. Many of these legacy plants have been under ‘care and maintenance’ for many years and it is recognised as being essential that action is taken now to decommission them in a safe and cost effective manner. During the intervening period, plants may have deteriorated leading to potentially hazardous environments that may contain high levels of radiation. Developing reliable systems for understanding and improving the integrity of on-site infrastructure is essential to increase the safety of the workforce that are involved in decommissioning and waste management.

We will address the following research areas:

  • Remote Monitoring
  • Preservation and Restoration
  • Radionuclide Migration
  • Autonomous Robot Systems
  • Plutonium Bearing Materials

Waste Pond or Silo

The legacy ponds and silos (LP&S) at Sellafield were operational between 1950 and 1980 to provide underwater storage solutions for high- and intermediate-level waste. Examples of this legacy waste include metal fuel cladding, spent fuel and material generated from fuel reprocessing. Storage time in these ponds and silos exceeded initial expectations, resulting in partial corrosion of the waste and spent fuel. This has formed a heterogeneous sludge at the base of these structures, adding to the challenge of the clean-up process. This has led to LP&S management being one of the UK’s top priority engineering programmes.

We will address the following research areas:

  • Remote Monitoring
  • Gas Hold-Up
  • Sludge Mobilisation and Transport

Waste Processing

Once radioactive waste has been retrieved from a legacy plant it is transported to a treatment facility. At a treatment facility the waste may undergo a number of processes with a goal to reduce the volume of radioactive waste that has to be managed and subsequently disposed.

We will address the following research areas:

  • Effluent Treatment
  • Ultra-Filtration Methods
  • Transition From Aqueous to Dry Fuel
  • Plutonium Contaminated Materials

Interim Safe Storage

In the UK, the preferred option for managing nuclear waste is the use of above ground interim storage before eventually moving the waste permanently to a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF).  This, however, must be underpinned by a credible programme of safe interim storage options, at various sites across the UK.

To produce a stable, solid wasteform, a number of immobilisation and encapsulation techniques are used.  A solid contained wasteform is the preferred option for waste as this reduces the potential hazard of the waste to surrounding environment.

We will address the following research areas:

  • Wasteform and Encapsulate Durability
  • PuO2 behaviour
  • Physiochemical Evolution
  • Radiation Damage
  • Gas Generation
  • Long-term Effects
  • Dissolution & Corrosion

Long Term Disposal Facility

The ultimate goal for the safe, long-term management of nuclear waste in the UK is through a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF).  A GDF is an underground permanent storage solution that has a number of engineered barriers placed around the waste to ensure that no harm can occur to the surrounding environment.  However, the UK public remains sceptical to this proposed waste management approach.

Whilst we do not directly address geological disposal, we aim to bridge the credibility gap in public perception of radioactive waste management.


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