Sheffield firm’s specialist crane ensures nuclear decommissioning is in safe hands

Sheffield firm’s specialist crane ensures nuclear decommissioning is in safe hands


A crane designed, manufactured, tested and installed by Sheffield engineering specialists SCX Special Projects is to play a key role in the decommissioning of the former Dounreay nuclear plant in northern Scotland.

The company has been awarded a contract to help ensure the safe handling of radioactive waste as part of one of the largest and most difficult nuclear commissioning challenges in Europe.

The semi-automated overhead drum crane will be used to lift 500-litre stainless steel drums into a new £22m unit at Dounreay. The drums will be encased in cement, put into long-term storage and monitored remotely over time.

SCX Special Projects – part of the SCX Group – is working with Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd (DSRL), which is managing the decommissioning on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

The Sheffield firm is bringing decades of engineering design and build experience to the contract, which involves meeting stringent safety requirements.

It is manufacturing, testing and installing the crane on the site, which closed in the mid-1990s after 50 years as a world leader in experimental fast breeder testing and development.

Andy Whitworth, director of SCX Special Projects, said: “In such a safety-critical industry you need to ensure that the equipment is reliable and safe far beyond all limits of its operation.

“High-level waste demands extreme caution, requiring engineering solutions that exhibit strength, durability, safety and quality.

“At the top of our list of priorities is that people are protected and can work with confidence in the surrounding environment.”

The contract is another significant boost for SCX in the nuclear industry, adding to its reputation in other fields, notably its design, manufacture and installation of retractable roofs at Wimbledon Centre and No.1 Courts for the All England Lawn Tennis Club.

The new waste storage facility will be an extension to the existing Dounreay Cementation Plant at the site which had three reactors, chemical reprocessing plants and various waste facilities. The latest estimated cost of the site closure plan is £2.3bn and work is scheduled to finish around 2030.

The design of the crane, which has a three-tonne safe working load, incorporates an emergency failsafe hoist brake, which quickly and safely prevents the freefall of the load in the event of a mechanical failure or loss of control.

Dan Towers, senior project manager at SCX Special Projects, said: “In a facility handling intermediate level waste, we need to be certain that the load is safe, secure and under control to ensure that both people and the environment are kept safe.”