Delivering the safe clean-up and demolition of the UK's former centre of fast reactor research on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority


The facilities built at Dounreay to research and develop the fast reactor system of electricity production are no longer required, so they are being cleaned out and dismantled.

Approximately 180 facilities were built at the site. Some are very straightforward to dismantle. Others require great care because of chemical or radiological hazards. About 50 facilities have a history that involved the presence of radioactive materials and special controls are in place around these to contain radiation.

Areas of ground have been polluted by radioactive materials and chemicals, and need to be remediated. Radioactive particles are present on the seabed and have been found on local beaches. A programme of monitoring is in place to safeguard the public pending clean-up of the seabed.

Decommissioning redundant facilities involves:

  • Assessing the hazards and developing plans to protect workers carrying out the work
  • Removal of hazards
  • Demolition
  • Segregation and management of different wastes

Key to successful decommissioning is careful planning and risk assessment. This is designed to keep to a minimum the exposure of workers to radiological and other hazards and minimise the impact on the environment.

In some facilities. radiation levels may be too high for workers, so robotic equipment is used until the levels are low enough for safe entry. Protective equipment worn by workers entering these areas can include air-line suits and respirators.

Decommissioning generates different types of waste, from conventional industrial wastes to hazardous materials such as asbestos and radioactive materials. Waste which cannot be recycled is segregated and processed at site for storage or disposal.

The work required to complete the site closure by 2030 is mapped out in the Lifetime Plan. This document contains some 14,000 pieces of work and forms the basis for funding from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

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Image: Asbestos removal during decommissioning

Asbestos removal during decommissioning


Decommissioning is complete when all redundant facilities have been demolished and wastes made safe for long-term storage or disposal

Image: Fuel fabrication plant is demolished

Fuel fabrication plant is demolished