Dounreay’s purpose was to research and develop more efficient ways to generate electricity from uranium and plutonium
A variety of fuel types was tested in reactors and examined over a 40-year period. The used fuel was recycled in chemical plants and the recovered uranium and plutonium turned into new fuel elements.
The knowledge gained from this work about the properties of uranium and plutonium made Dounreay a world-leader in the development of nuclear energy for electricity production.
By 1994, when the UK Government decided Dounreay had served its purpose, the site had accumulated approximately 100 tonnes of uranium and plutonium fuels, much of it in a variety of specialist forms.
Some of this uranium and plutonium exists in the form of “spent fuel”. These are elements that have been irradiated in a reactor but not reprocessed to separate the fuel from the waste. Other fuel is unirradiated.
The fuel today belongs to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, a non-departmental public body of the UK Government, and is a national asset.
Dounreay is closing down, so decisions are being taken about where and how this fuel will be managed in the future.
The fuel stock can be divided into three categories:
- Dounreay Fast Reactor breeder
- Exotic fuel and nuclear materials
- Natural and depleted uranic materials
This section of the website contains more information about these fuels, the decision-making process and their destination.
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