Josh Everett, a diver with UCC UK Ltd., enters bay No. 11 of Sellafield’s Pile Fuel Storage Pond in December 2022, the first time in over 60 years a diver has entered the legacy pond, used to store a variety of spent nuclear fuel types and wastes. During this commissioning nuclear dive, Everett’s underwater tasks included emergency diver extraction trial confirmation, radiation monitoring system verification, and radiation contact meter commissioning. (Photos courtesy of Sellafield Ltd.)
The last time a human entered the Pile Fuel Storage Pond at the Sellafield nuclear site in Cumbria, England, was in 1958, when records show a maintenance operator and health physics monitor carried out a dive into the newly constructed pond to repair a broken winch. At least that was true until December 2022, when Josh Everett, a diver from the U.K. specialist nuclear diving team Underwater Construction Corporation (UCC) UK Ltd., became the first person in more than 60 years to work in one of the most unique workplaces in the world.
A rendering of Holtec’s SMR-160 plant. (Image: Holtec International)
Small modular reactor developers Holtec International and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) are both looking to the United Kingdom as a prime location for deployment of their units—the SMR-160 and BWRX-300, respectively.
On December 19, Holtec Britain announced that it is poised to enter the United Kingdom’s generic design assessment (GDA) process for the SMR-160 early in 2023, enabling the start of construction of the first U.K. unit as soon as 2028. (The GDA, developed by the Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency, gauges the safety, security, and environmental protection aspects of a nuclear plant design. Successfully completing the assessment culminates in a design acceptance confirmation from ONR and a statement of design acceptability from the Environment Agency.)
Queen Elizabeth II visits Calder Hall for its ceremonial opening in 1956. (Photo: U.K. Nuclear Decommissioning Authority)
As citizens of the United Kingdom and others around the world mourn the death of Queen Elizabeth II, many have reflected on how the world has changed during the seven decades of the queen’s reign—the same decades that saw the rise of civilian nuclear power.
Calder Hall was already under construction at the Sellafield site in West Cumbria when Princess Elizabeth became queen in 1953. Queen Elizabeth traveled to the site in October 1956 and declared, in a televised ceremony, that “It is with pride that I now open Calder Hall, Britain’s first atomic power station.” Watch the fanfare in a historical clip uploaded to YouTube by Sellafield Ltd below.