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CYCLOPS Takes You Where No Man Has Gone - Inside The Reactor Core - Watch The Video

17th March 2007

Another ground-breaking device is leading the way with decommissioning Dounreay's Prototype Fast Reactor (PFR). The innovative purpose built device, nicknamed Cyclops, was designed in-house by UKAEA's specialist design team. It has the combined purpose of measuring radiation and videoing capabilities in an extreme environment where temperatures are in excess of 230C in addition to the high radiation levels.

The specialist nitrogen cooled camera was lowered eight metres into the reactor on a heat resistant umbilical service line, which has allowed a clear view of the upper regions of the reactor and deep inside the core for the first time in over thirty years.

Appearing like a honeycomb in a bee-hive, the pattern which once housed the fuel pins is clearly visible, and appears to be in remarkably good condition despite the passage of time.

With the camera in the reactor performing the visual inspection, the team took the opportunity to undertake the first in a series of radiation surveys which will assist with reactor decommissioning and ultimately demolition of PFR.

Watch The Video

UKAEA's Calder Bain, responsible for the design of the equipment, said: "A considerable amount of innovation was required to build PFR and there will be a continual requirement for pioneering methods to take a reactor of this complexity apart. This type of work gives young engineers the opportunity to put their innovative skills and knowledge into practice."

Dr Jim McCafferty, PFR decommissioning manager said: "The reactor dismantling project is critical to the decommissioning of PFR. The team in place, led by Ron Hibbert, have well developed plans in operation, however decommissioning a fast reactor of this size would not be possible without the continued support of our highly skilled contractors who have worked tirelessly to support us in achieving safe delivery of challenging projects such as this."

PFR operated for twenty years from 1974 until 1994. 1500 tonnes of liquid sodium metal was used as the coolant to transfer the heat from the reactor core through to the three secondary circuits to asteam-generating plant for electricity production. All the nuclear fuel was removed from the reactor following its closure and the next phase of decommissioning is to complete the disposal of the remaining sodium using the revolutionary Water Vapour Nitrogen process (WVN) process following the destruction of the majority of the sodium via the sodium disposal plant. PFR had the dual role of providing power to the national grid and offering unique research and development facilities. PFR provided information for the future design and operation of large commercial fast reactor stations and had an electrical output of 250MW, which was enough electricity to supply a city the size of Aberdeen.


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