Inside what looks like an ordinary warehouse, some 95% of the UK’s high-level nuclear waste is stored below the floor. Two-metre thick concrete lids, coloured yellow, cover these deep concrete wells at Sellafield in Cumbria.
In a process known as vitrification, high-level nuclear waste is dissolved in liquid glass heated to more than 1,100C. The cocktail is then poured into steel canisters where the glass solidifies and stops the waste escaping.
The canisters are stacked 10 high below the floor in the storage facility. Waste from nuclear power plants has been arriving since the 1950s but nothing has ever been shipped out of here, until now.
On 19 January 2010, a purpose-built steel flask containing 28 canisters was prepared for the long journey by train and ship from Sellafield to Japan.
A powerful crane was used to load the flask onto a specially designed train carriage strong enough to carry its weight. The flask itself weighs about 100 tonnes while the waste canisters weigh about 13 tonnes.
On 20 January 2009, the train transported the flask south along the Cumbrian coast on a journey lasting about an hour and a half to to the ports in Barrow.
The flask was loaded from the train onto a ship built specifically to transport high-level nuclear waste across the seas. Text and photos: Jorn Madslien.
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