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Dounreay Bulletin - Issue 14

15th November 2006

On behalf of the Dounreay Stakeholder Group, UKAEA has published a consultation document detailing the feasible options for the condition of the site when decommissioning is complete. While a final decision on the future use of the land does not need to be made for a number of years community views are being sought now to allow the NDA and its contractor UKAEA to finalise their plans for decommissioning the site with greater certainty. The closing date for comments on the options is January 19, 2007. See:

UKAEA has completed the construction of a new facility for storing solid low level radioactive waste from the clean-up and demolition of Dounreay. The 1 million project, completed ahead of schedule and below budget, more than doubles the existing capacity to store low level waste from the site's decommissioning. For further information see:

Dounreay has begun cleaning out the pond in the materials test reactor reprocessing plant where spent fuel was cut up, leaving radioactive fuel debris at the bottom.

The pond liquor will pass through ion exchange columns to reduce its radioactivity and remove dissolved activity, and a series of filters to remove particulate. Once the pond liquor has been sufficiently cleaned, it will be disposed of via the appropriate waste route. The used ion exchange columns and particulate will be stored as solid ILW.

According to UKAEA's senior project manager Tom Johnston, the clean up process is working well. "The radiological activity concentration in the pond is significant, and the process has cleaned up the pond liquor by a factor of 200," he said. "When we have cleaned up and removed most of the water, we will refill the pond and repeat the process until all the fuel debris and the liquor has been removed."

The clean up operation is expected to take a number of months to complete, and will remove a significant radiological hazard in the facility.

The social and economic consequences arising from the closure of Dounreay were debated in the Scottish Parliament on October 25. Jamie Stone, MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross led the debate, with contributions from MSPs Rob Gibson, Maureen MacMillan, Jamie McGrigor, Eleanor Scott, Jim Mather, and the Government response delivered by Allan Wilson, Deputy Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning. The official report can be found at:

A panel of experts has identified a short-list of 11 feasible combinations of options for addressing the legacy of radioactive particles in the marine environment around Dounreay. The options were detailed for the first time at the Environmental Research Institute in Thurso on November 2 when Phil Cartwright (UKAEA) and Paul Dale (SEPA) provided an update on the recent work undertaken to understand the extent of the contamination and the human health aspects respectively.

The panel recognised that recovering every particle was not possible and "an understanding of when the issue has been dealt with sufficiently" needs to be considered. The options therefore include differing degrees of cleanup of the seabed near Dounreay, from where particles buried in the sediment are carried by the sea onto nearby beaches.

The publication of the third report of Dounreay Particles Advisory Group (DPAG) will be launched on Tuesday 21 November, it was announced on November 2 by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

UKAEA Dounreay's waste services unit manager Paul McClelland was in Vienna on October 31 to November 2 to chair a workshop of international experts on lessons learned from long-term waste storage, leading to the development of IAEA guidance. Dounreay's Steve Beckitt and Ed McCarthy also attended. The group gave presentations, held detailed discussions and shared key lessons learned.

Paul gave a presentation to the IAEA on the UK radioactive waste storage programme and the lessons learned. According to Paul, now that Dounreay is retrieving and re-packaging historic waste a number of lessons are being learned from the way in which the waste had been dealt with in the past.

The latest edition of Radioactivity in Food and the Environment has been published jointly by a number of Agencies, including SEPA. It reports measurements of radioactivity in food and the environment made in 2005 around Dounreay and other sites authorised to discharge radioactive waste, and confirms that the potential dose to a member of the public is well below the statutory limits.

The UK Government and devolved administrations have announced their acceptance of recommendations by the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management about the geological disposal of higher activity wastes.

SEPA has welcomed the announcement
The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority will be responsible for implementing the decision.

Dounreay hosted a visit by representatives of FGUP Atomflot of Murmansk on November 6 as part of a UK programme of international support on non-proliferation and safety of nuclear materials across the former Soviet Union. The group was accompanied on its visit by officials from the UK Department of Trade and Industry, which is providing up to $750 million over 10 years for nuclear non-proliferation to the former Soviet states, and representatives of the UK Crown Agents.

Dounreay's award-winning visitor centre has closed for its penultimate season after enjoying yet another successful year with almost 9,000 people through its doors, making the centre one of the most popular attractions in the far North. The visitor centre opened at Easter and has received a steady flow of tourists from all over the world, as well as members of the local community and their families throughout the year. See:

As part of Dounreay's focus on European Safety & Health week, on Tuesday October 24 Sister Shonaidh Tolworthy from the UKAEA Occupational Health Department gave a presentation on hearing protection to 22 members of Thurso Platoon from Caithness Company first Battalion the Highlanders Army Cadet Force (ACF). Shonaidh talked to the cadets about the need to take care of their precious sense of hearing at their early age. They were shown a DVD called Hearing The Science. Hearing was explained using pictures of the anatomy of the ear and how microscopic hairs within the cochlea in the inner ear are damaged by excessive prolonged exposure to loud noises, hence the essential requirement to wear appropriate ear protection at all times.

Neil Mclean, officer commanding, Caithness Company, said: "Our hearing is a vital sense that is easily taken care of and raising awareness for young people will hopefully go a long way to protecting their hearing in years to come. Dounreay kindly agreed to talk to our cadets and feedback from the group has been extremely positive."

There are some 60 cadets within Caithness in three detachments - Castletown, Thurso, and Wick. There are 10 instructors in the county, five of whom work at Dounreay.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority on October 26 published its first full annual report and accounts, for April 1, 2005, to March 31, 2006). The NDA also published today its Health, Safety, Security and Environment Report for the same period. See:

Improvements were made to Thurso Fire Station's Haunted House this year with assistance by UKAEA. A donation of 300 was made to re-build the layouts as the originals were beyond repair. This is the 3rd year the Haunted House has been held at the Fire Station and is run voluntarily by the firemen and women.


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