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Dounreay Bulletin - Issue 22

20th March 2007

Photograph of Dounreay Bulletin - Issue 22

As of Friday March 16, Dounreay had gone a record 184 days without a lost-time accident. This is equivalent to 2.18 million man-hours of work.

Tony Wratten, the site's head of assurance, said: "Improvements in our decommissioning performance have been matched by improvements in our safety performance, which is a great credit to everyone at the site and a record we can all be proud of. The challenge for us all now is to maintain that level and improve upon it."

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 can measure radiation and relay video pictures in an extreme environment where temperatures are in excess of 230C and radiation levels are high.

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 30 years.

Work has commenced on the final phase of the site preparation required for a major new waste processing and interim storage plant to treat the largest radiological hazards on the site. The work involves excavating the plant footprint down to bed rock and installing new service ducts and protection of existing ducts. Following a competitive tendering exercise, the contract was awarded to local contractor MM Miller and is expected to take eight to 10 weeks to complete.

Highland Council granted outline planning permission for the waste processing and interim storage plant earlier this year. This plant will immobilise liquid waste and encapsulate solid waste from historical reprocessing of fast reactor fuel, getting it into a passive state suitable for long-term storage and disposal.

The construction of the plant is expected to commence in early 2008 and will create in the region of 200 jobs. The plant is due to come into operation in 2012, with the clean-up of the fast reactor liquors complete by 2017.

The Dounreay Fast Reactor seawater pump house, which once towered over the shoreline, has now been reduced to a flat plain protected by a wall of armour rock. During its working life, the pump house supplied seawater to the reactor at up to 50 million gallons per day to condense the steam generated by the reactor. UKAEA has worked with the Crown Estates, who own the shoreline from the high tide mark, and environmental regulators SEPA, on the design of the cap for the pump house site.

Workers and safety advisors at DFR have come up with an ingenious solution to a problem encountered while cleaning and painting a crane. The Doosan operators, who were working in a limited space on the crane, found that dirt and debris falling from above required them to wear visors. However, the visors were large and cumbersome, and kept misting over.

George Armour, DFR's safety advisor, explained how they overcame the problem. "We came up with this detachable visor and goggle set. The goggles are anti-mist and can be used with or without the visor. The visor itself is light and well-ventilated and a disposable face mask can be worn underneath. The operators are more comfortable wearing it. In addition, the visor is rated to EN 166-A High speed particles high energy impact."

The visor and goggle set could be an idea piece of equipment for other areas of site facing similar challenges. DFR's safety record is impressive, and innovations such as this play an important part in achieving and maintaining that record.

Community groups in Caithness and north Sutherland are set to cash in on a new communities fund from April 1st. This year the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority will invest 20,000 in the new initiative, called the Dounreay Communities Fund. In addition, UKAEA is to invest up to 30,000 a year in the new fund based on the site's lost-time accident record, giving a total potential pay-out to local groups of 50,000 a year. The fund will receive a donation of 2500 for every month without a lost-time accident at Dounreay. Each month equals approximately 350,000 man-hours of work.

Further information on the fund can be found at or contact Marie Mackay, Communications Officer, Dounreay on 01847 806087 or by email: marie.mackay[AT]

A new monthly newspaper for workers decommissioning the fast reactor experiment has been launched at Dounreay. The eight-page, full-colour Dounreay News was published for the first time this month with a print run of 2000 copies.

The tabloid style of the paper is designed to reflect the fundamental change in the nature of work at the site. "We've gone from a research and development site to a clean-up and demolition site, so we wanted to reflect that in how we improved the communications at the site," explained editor Sue Thompson of the site's communications department.

The tabloid includes a regular "page three pin-up" - Danny Macdonald, a radiological protection supervisor with shaft isolation contractor Ritchies, is profiled in the first edition this month. Each edition will include a guest columnist, with local MP John Thurso the first to pen a piece for the "off the record" series.

Decommissioning work in the Fuel Cycle Area and management of the waste it produces was suspended briefly on March 9 when an early morning cable fault interrupted electrical supplies. All back-up systems functioned properly and normal supply was restored after 2.5 hours. Checks found no evidence of any environmental impact.

A teaspoon of liquid metal coolant leaked into a custom-made glove-bag at DFR during an operation to remove failed level probes on March 1. The spill was completely contained in the glove-bag. However, the job was stopped, the local incident control centre manned and the fire brigade attended as a precaution. The incident was quickly brought under control, and the NII were informed. An internal investigation has been convened.

Mike Brown, DFR's decommissioning manager, praised the way in which the staff reacted to the incident. "Everyone who was involved responded in a positive and professional manner, and we have learned some useful lessons from our handling of the incident."

Old age and severe weather have taken their toll on the seasonal visitor centre at Dounreay. The former World War Two air traffic control tower was damaged during severe flooding in November. Further deterioration in its condition over the winter months has led to its closure being brought forward.

Dounreay will now concentrate on providing a new exhibition about the site decommissioning as part of a multi-million pound visitor development in Thurso.

A new section about emergency planning has been added to the Dounreay website. The series of pages provides information about the arrangements at the site and includes links to relevant outside organisations.

As part of the Highland Year of Culture, Highland 2007 has launched an initiative called "Project 365" to record life in the Highlands and Islands during the year. During 2007 a different person will be given a camera each week to record the events of their day-to-day lives. The images will be their own view of life in the Highlands and Islands. Over the course of the year a portrait of life in the Highlands and Islands will be created on the Highland 2007 website reflecting the people who live and visit here.

UKAEA was asked to nominate a member of staff to participate. Neil Buchan of Assurance Department, a keen photographer, participated in this project during February. His photographs can now be viewed on the Highland 2007 website which includes photographs taken at Dounreay.

Please click on the following link to view his photographs and please leave comments:

Fifteen school children from Reay Primary and their teacher, Mrs Jayne Blackburn, braved the windy weather to visit the meteorological station at the Dounreay Visitor Centre. The children have been carrying out their own weather project at school, measuring rainfall and wind speeds, and their level of knowledge was impressive. They were given high-visibility waistcoats to wear, donated by CH2MHill, before they inspected the weather station. UKAEA's Dr John Heathcote, who is responsible for the weather stations on the Dounreay site, showed them the charts for the storm of 26 October 2006, when the winds had reached nearly hurricane force and Caithness received nearly a month's rain fall in less than a day.

UKAEA Dounreay is supporting the production of this year's Thurso High School year book. This year's book is set to be an interesting and exciting yearbook which will feature the year's events and students. It will also include profiles of each student and various teachers, photos of main sporting, fundraising and social events held throughout the year.

UKAEA Dounreay, on behalf of the NDA, has agreed to provide financial support to a major local music festival being held at Easter by the Northern Nashville Country Music Club.


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