Giant crane constructed to bring down Sellafield chimney

Pile One – the scene of the 1957 Windscale fire – will be dismantled.

A chimney which has dominated the skyline in West Cumbria for nearly 70 years is to be dismantled.

The historic 110 metre structure which towers above Sellafield will be demolished later this year as part of the decommissioning of the plant.

A giant 152 metre crane – just six metres shorter than the Blackpool Tower – has been constructed to bring down the of the Windscale Pile One chimney, the scene of Britain’s worst nuclear accident.

Because nuclear material surrounds the stack, traditional demolition techniques like explosives cannot be used.

Duncan Thompson, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s Sellafield programme director, said: “The complex task of decommissioning and demolishing the Windscale Pile One Stack has reached an important stage.

“It is another example of the ingenuity that goes into solving the UK’s decommissioning problems.

“Once demolition begins it will be a very visible demonstration of the work being done to make Sellafield a safer place.”

Renowned as the world’s most recognisable nuclear chimney, preparations to begin pulling it down in the autumn are now complete.

Diamond wire saws will be used to remove and lower the structure in chunks.

The Windscale Pile One chimney, with its distinctive top-heavy appearance, was nicknamed ‘Cockroft’s Folly’, after its designer Sir John Cockroft.

However its design turned out to be a masterstroke when in 1957, fire broke out in the Windscale Pile One reactor.

The sky-high filters captured an estimated 95 per cent of the radioactive dust created.

Teams from Sellafield and its supply chain are working together to safely pull it down with the square-shaped diffuser at the top being the first piece to go.

George Frost, the project engineering manager, said:

“We’re making visible progress on this demolition and it won’t be long now until we start to see the diffuser removed. The chimney is one of the iconic legacies of Sellafield’s past, so the skyline change as the chimney is removed will be significant.”

“This has been a challenging piece of work, so everyone is pleased to see work progressing. This is thanks not only to the Sellafield and supply chain teams involved now, but over more than a generation.”