Mr Muscle Helps Dounreay Clean-up
2nd April 2009
Another legacy of Dounreay's commercial venture into nuclear reprocessing has been safely cleaned up and taken apart. A household proprietry cleaner "Mr Muscle" was found to be the most effective way of removing glue and fake snow use in the clean-up process.
The pulsed column laboratory was part of Dounreay's attempt to create a commercial future in specialised nuclear services. It was built in the early 1980s to carry out realistic testing of commercial size pulsed columns with plutonium solutions.
The pulsed column rig, constructed inside a four-storey glove-box, was a towering array of slim glass tubes up to 10m high. The six columns were constructed from borosilicate glass sections, each 2m long, and weighing approximately 30kg.
The laboratory began operation in January 1986 and was finally shut down in 1991. Phase 1 decommissioning began in December 1991 and continued until March 1993. All the nuclear material, the 6 pulsed columns and other fittings in the glovebox were removed . Thereafter the laboratory was left on 'care and maintenance' until the final phase of the clean up work began in 2004.
Various options were explored for the disposal of the glass columns. Crushing was tried and abandoned due to the potential for the spread of contamination. Eventually, the decommissioning project team found that the best option was to decontaminate the columns and dispose of them as low level waste.
The columns were wrapped in Kevlar, carefully packaged up and transported to the site's decontamination facility.
The team carried out inactive trials wearing full airline suits. They used a clean glass column, and coated the interior with spray-on snow and the exterior with a PVA glue and tie-down coating to mimic the contaminated glass columns.
During the trials, they discovered that a household-strength glass cleaner 'Mr Muscle' was particularly effective in removing the glue and fake snow.
The team began the clean up of the contaminated columns in December 2008.
DSRL project manager Charlie Fowler and project engineer Alec Jappy believe that team work played a large part in the successful completion of the job.
"We developed ideas that were originally put into practice by the team taking apart the pulsed column glovebox," said Charlie.
Alec added; "There has been a lot of worker participation in the design of the primary decontamination containment. Their suggestions have been very valuable and has helped us to make refinements to the design. "
Following the decontamination process the columns were packed into industrial containers for future grouting, before being stored as low level waste.
Work is underway to retrieve the last remaining radioactive fuel elements that have been stuck for decades inside the iconic Dounreay Fast Reactor (DFR). The experimental dome-shaped nuclear reactor once led the world in fast breeder technology and after it closed in 1977 most of the core fuel was removed.
Eleven young people who have completed their Dounreay apprentice training are "very much a part of the future of the far north." Guest speaker Jamie Stone MP told the audience at the apprentice indenture ceremony that took place last Friday that, as Dounreay continues to decommission, the newly indentured apprentices would be an important part of the area's ability to offer a skilled and innovative workforce. Dounreay Managing Director and former nuclear industry apprentice Phil Craig added: “I am very proud that we are celebrating yet another group of talented apprentices.
Companies are being invited to LINC together and support Scotland's largest decommissioning project thanks to an innovative new scheme designed to increase the number of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) delivering clean-up work at Dounreay. Up to five companies will be invited to help understand and develop the best proposal for size-reducing all of the machinery and components that will need to be removed from Dounreay's Prototype Fast Reactor (PFR) - the largest to be built at the Caithness site.
Graduates from as far afield as Portugal and London arrived in Caithness last week to kick start their career at Dounreay. Ten new recruits have started on the two-year graduate scheme with educational backgrounds as diverse as engineering, law and digital forensics and ethical hacking.
It is 60 years this weekend since the first criticality was achieved in Scotland using a test rig at Dounreay. Now the decommissioning team responsible for the site is marking that milestone by taking a major step towards demolishing the oldest reactor that remains at the former fast reactor research centre.
This film, produced by AEA Technology in 1994, looks back on the history of the fast reactor development programme at Dounreay..
Progress across Dounreay's decommissioning programme is being showcased in a new film and brochure highlighting the team's successes during 2016-17. Some of the highest hazards that remained in the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority estate, including liquid metal coolant from the Dounreay Fast Reactor, were reduced and destroyed during the year bringing to a successful conclusion projects that spanned many years.
The biggest networking event in Europe for nuclear decommissioning will be held in Manchester. 2 November 2017.
A planning application will be submitted to Highland Council later this year to cover the next phase of planning at the Dounreay site. Planning permission from 2018 to the shutdown of the site, also known as the interim end state, is the third phase of the planning required for the Dounreay decommissioning programme.
The clean-up of the nuclear estate is a key priority for both the Scottish and United Kingdom governments. Dounreay's decommissioning is well established with the site due to reach an interim end state by the early 2030s.
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