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Breakthroughs in Hazard Reduction

March 28, 2008

Dounreay Fast Reactor

UKAEA is on course to hand over the clean-up of Dounreay to a subsidiary company on April 1 on the back of significant progress during March to reduce the major hazards at the site.

The site has reported breakthroughs in all three areas where funds from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority are prioritised towards major hazard reduction.

At the Prototype Fast Reactor, all 1500 tonnes of hazardous liquid sodium metal has now been drained from the reactor circuits, with 50 tonnes or so still to be destroyed in a purpose-built chemical treatment plant. This is on course for completion in June.

At the Dounreay Fast Reactor, the first trial batches of hazardous liquid metal from the primary circuit have been destroyed successfully during the active commissioning phase of a purpose-built chemical treatment plant. Subject to regulatory consent to begin full operation, it is expected to take two years to complete the destruction of the sodium-potassium.

In the Fuel Cycle Area, a plant that converts hazardous liquor to solid intermediate-level waste has been repaired. Test runs have started in preparation for agreement to resume full production of cemented drums. A second plant is planned to accelerate the reduction of this major hazard.

The breakthroughs in hazard reduction have occurred at the same time as the site has submitted proposals to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to bring forward the completion date for site closure from 2032 to 2025.

On April 1, subject to completion of due process, UKAEA will be restructured to enable the clean-up of its former research sites to be competed by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. A new site licence company, Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd, will take over responsibility for the clean-up at Dounreay.

Simon Middlemas, the managing director-designate of Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd, said: “The progress we are making across the site on hazard reduction underlines our commitment to decommission Dounreay as quickly as it is safe to do so.

“We carried out a major reorganisation two years ago, with the twin objectives of getting a sharper focus on hazard reduction and paving the way to become a stand-alone site company. In the past month, we have really started to see the benefits of this, with significant breakthroughs across the site and the workforce now ready to begin work on April 1 as employees of a new company, Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd. At the same time, our safety performance has improved steadily.

“We know there are areas we need to improve, not least in how we communicate our environmental performance. We know, too, that there will be other hazards to face as we clean out more of the other experimental facilities in the months and years ahead.

“But I’m confident, based on our recent performance, we have a team here who can continue to set the pace in the safe and efficient decommissioning of the nuclear legacy.”

Ends

Notes to Editors:

1. Dounreay was Britain’s centre of fast reactor research and development from 1954 until 1994.

2. Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd will be a wholly-owned subsidiary of UKAEA Ltd, another new company being formed through the restructuring of UKAEA, pending competition for its ownership by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

3. Most of the existing UKAEA workforce at Dounreay is expected to transfer to DSRL on April 1. Senior management positions within the site licence company will be filled by staff seconded from UKAEA Ltd and its business partners, AMEC and CH2MHILL.

4. Once DSRL is established, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is expected to invite competitive bids for its ownership.

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