Dounreay's Oldest Reactor To Be Demolished
15th August 2017
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.
Companies are being invited to bid for a contract to demolish the iconic Dounreay Materials Test Reactor (DMTR) which became Scotland's first operational reactor in 1958. DMTR, which was built with steelwork weighing in at almost 600 tonnes and stands on foundations more than 25 metres in diameter, tested the effects of irradiation on metals and was the only reactor on the site to use heavy water instead of liquid metal as a coolant.
Fuel was removed soon after it shut down in 1969 and many of the surrounding facilities, including cooling towers, emergency control room and pipework have since been cleared out and demolished. The control room desk and panels, which were key to the operation of the reactor, were transferred to Caithness Horizons in 2015 where they remain on display and the final support building is on track to be knocked down by the end of the year.
Bill Lambie, Project Manager, said: "This month we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the first criticality in Scotland, which took place in a temporary test rig. That was an immense achievement, and we are now poised to demolish its successor and the oldest reactor on site, DMTR.
"The removal of DMTR from the skyline will be a significant step for Dounreay, and will be a real and visible sign of the decommissioning progress being made."
A contract notice will appear in the Official Journal of the European Union for the project estimated to be worth around £7 million over three years. A contractor is expected to be appointed in the first half of 2018.
The first criticality, where neutrons collide to create a nuclear chain reaction, was achieved in a test rig known as ZETR (zero energy test reactor) located alongside DMTR at lunchtime on 13 August 1957. Bill added: “This was an historic moment because it put Dounreay on the map as the UK's centre of fast reactor research, and encouraged the local population to acquire scientific skills and abilities that have been associated with the area ever since."
Engineers at Dounreay have raided a scrap car and a kitchen can opener to help decommission one of the site's reactors. The handbrake from a vintage 1968 Ford Cortina has been used to help steer a camera, attached to wheels taken from can openers, into the Prototype Fast Reactor (PFR) where a detailed survey inside the plant was completed.
Dounreay Site Restoration Limited has submitted a planning application to the Highland Council covering a series of decommissioning projects expected to take place between 2018 and the site's shut down, also known as the interim end state. The application, which is the last of three planning phases covering the overall decommissioning of the site, follows engagement undertaken earlier this year including public events and an opportunity to comment on draft documents online.
Drone technology is helping Dounreay reduce the risk of accidents and save money on its inspection of buildings. A camera mounted on an unmanned aerial vehicle is taking over tasks previously carried out by workers on elevated work platforms.
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.
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.
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