The filter galleries at the top of Sellafield’s final Windscale Piles ventilation stack have been removed prior the 110 m (361 ft) chimney’s demolition, during which more than 5,000 tonnes of concrete, steel and brick will be dismantled, checked for radioactive contamination and disposed of. The two piles were built to provide the UK government with the plutonium required for its initial nuclear deterrent.
Fortunately the high performance galleries installed on top of both stacks at the insistence of Sir John Cockcroft (and known locally as 'Cockcroft's Follies') after the stacks had been designed and partially built prevented a major nuclear accident when Pile 1 caught fire in 1957 and threatened much of the north of England with contamination.
To commemorate the removal of the filter gallery on the structure, Sir John Cockcroft’s son and grandson went on site, climbed the chimney and helped with the removal of the final part of the 530 tonne ‘Folly’.
Christopher Cockroft, now 72, was just eight years old when his father worked on having the filter gallery installed. He said: “It’s a huge honour to be here to see this work being carried out. We should remember the exemplary courage and devotion of the Windscale men who fought to control the fire back in 1957. My father would be extremely proud to know that his legacy of safety in the nuclear industry lives on at Sellafield today.”
Tony Price, managing director of Sellafield Ltd, said: “Dismantling this chimney is one of the most visual demonstrations of the progress we’re making to clean up Sellafield. Cockcroft’s Follies prevented a catastrophe, but the 1957 fire was nevertheless a dark hour for nuclear in the UK and one from which much was learned. It is testament to Sir John that the UK nuclear industry is today one of the safest in the world.”
There has never been a comparable nuclear incident in the UK since the Windscale fire.