Hunterston Nuclear Power Station - Magnox ILW Handling Solutions

Aerospace, Nuclear & Defence

The challenge

The Magnox plant at Hunterston required high-integrity mechanical handling solutions for the safe and reliable retrieval, manipulation, packaging and transport of Intermediate Level Waste (ILW).

Various waste boxes and drums, each posing their own unique challenges, needed to be handled in a manner that met demanding Safety Cases. And all in processing environments that carry operator exposure risks, so automation and remote control was a prerequisite.

The solution

SCX designed, built, tested and installed three handling solutions, each tailored to the differing requirements of Hunterston’s ILW packages and their processing environments.

Each crane has a bespoke motorised rotating grapple, with one carrying a remote-controlled mast for entering ILW sludge ponds to safely retrieve and package waste materials. The cranes demonstrate our capability to engineer and deliver safe, reliable handling solutions for nuclear licensed sites.

Precise and powerful handling

Precision positioning

  • The bespoke grapple engages with either ILW boxes or drums via four twist lock sockets
  • The package is then held in a preset position for swabbing, then lowered into a cross-site transporter vehicle for transfer to the storage facility
  • Limit switches, load cells, proximity switches and photocells provide advanced EC&I monitoring and millimetre precision



Ensuring repeatable accuracy

  • Fine electrical control, precise mechanical design and laser positioning ensure millimetre accuracy
  • Our bespoke grapple design interfaces with either Nirex boxes or drums, complete with a sophisticated locking detection system with visual confirmation flags for safety
  • The system uses semi-automated positioning presets, all controlled remotely via a CCTV-fed desk


Thoughtful engineering

  • The innovative latching and rotating grapple engages via twist locks into a common socket interface used on a range of ILW packages
  • The chassis of the crab is carefully planned to mount cabinets and cabling, and to provide easy maintenance access
  • SCX’s EC&I design employs load cells, encoders and limit switches, sending real time data back to the operator and detecting potential safety issues


Seeing the bigger picture in fine detail

Meeting the challenge

  • SCX engineered four bespoke systems for Hunterston’s wet ILW handling:
    • a 10-tonne main hoist with a 2-tonne auxiliary hoist;
    • a 3.2-tonne, crane-mounted sludge retrieval pumping rig;
    • a rig cleaning station;
    • an ILW box encapsulation process.
  • The systems work together along a 14-metre shielded ‘canyon’ to retrieve waste, fill and seal the ILW packages, then position them for site transfer


Fit-for-purpose solutions

  • Cranes for waste handling require shorter design working lives – five years in this case – enabling us to create more cost-effective, fit-for-purpose solutions
  • This is the main hoist for solid ILW handling, with a 10-tonne SWL, and four wire ropes to give true vertical lift
  • A 7-metre height of lift is inverter-controlled at speeds of 0.5 or 5m/min, long travel is 1 or 10m/min, while cross travel is 0.5m/min


Full system thinking

  • The process of packaging wet ILW materials through multiple, connected mechanical handling stages requires SCX’s ‘full system thinking’ approach
  • Interfaces between each stage require careful engineering to ensure smooth transitions and risk-free operation
  • Preset positions are detected and interlocked with neighbouring stages to prevent accidental movements


Safety through experience

A tried and tested design

  • This latest design is an evolution of the solid and wet ILW hoists, giving true vertical lift and a 12-tonne SWL
  • With a 12-metre height of lift, raise speeds are 0.5 to 5m/min with long travel speeds of 1 to 10m/min
  • Inverter-controlled movements deliver smooth acceleration and deceleration, reducing shock loads and sway


Control from a safe distance

  • The crane is operated remotely via an HMI, which provides a CCTV feed and control over a range of semi-automated preset positions
  • Radio pendants are provided for closer control and maintenance, with operations protected by key interlocks
  • Diverse recovery mechanisms allow the load to be secured event in the event of a hoist failure or loss of power


Safety always first

  • The cranes are able to be recovered remotely in the event of a hoist or power failure, ensuring that no personnel need to access the area when an ILW package is present
  • Interlocks are used to restrict hoist and grapple operations outside of defined safe areas
  • Even with the complete failure of one rope, the load is held secure and level


Let's talk more about nuclear cranes.

The nuclear sector demands levels of safety and integrity that requires special lifting solutions. Our innovative engineering approach takes proven components from reputable manufacturers and combines them with innovative protection systems to deliver a verified nuclear crane solution.

We have decades of experience in engineering nuclear cranes. Talk to us today.

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SCX Special Projects Ltd

Roman Ridge Road, Sheffield, S9 1GA, United Kingdom

t:  +44 (0)114 262 6199