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Dounreay Bulletin - Issue 7

4th July 2007

Photograph of Dounreay Bulletin - Issue 7

Dounreay Communities Fund has started well with over £13,000 already being donated to fifty-seven local charities and organisations. The fund, launched on 1st April is provided by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and is supplemented by UKAEA through a workforce safety dividend at Dounreay. The fund total currently stands at £22,500. More information on the fund can be found on UKAEA website:

As John Lehew, a CH2MHill alliance partner with UKAEA heads for pastures new, returning to his American homeland, we wish him well and thank him for his significant contribution towards the site decommissioning programme. We are pleased to announce that Brad Smith will this week take over the position of Dounreay Site Project Manager. Brad, also a CH2MHill alliance partner, has been working with the waste strategy team on the site since 2006 and has extensive leadership experience, with over twenty years experience with nuclear facility operations, from start-up through commissioning, operations and decommissioning.

Dounreay's senior management profiles can all be found on the Dounreay website at:

In the previous bulletin we reported elevated levels of radiation had been detected during a routine environmental survey of the non-active drains. Investigations have continued and further samples have been taken which show much lower levels of contamination. Work is ongoing to understand the circumstances that led to the initial high sample result. Further samples will be taken this week to allow the situation to be fully understood. SEPA and NII have been updated as the work progresses. For further information see:

A detailed programme of product development is being completed for the new plant, to be constructed to treat certain liquid and solid radioactive wastes. Product development is key to supporting the provision of Letters of Compliance (LoC) from the NDA's Radioactive Waste Management Directorate (RWMD). The project already has conceptual LoC's for all identified waste feeds, and has recently received Interim LoC's for the packaging of the 2 prime waste feeds; PFR raffinate and Historic Solid RHILW. The programme of product development has been carried out at an early stage of the project to reduce technical risk and provide a firm foundation for the facility design. Endorsement in the form of Letters of Compliance from RWMD represents a major step forward.

The role of RWMD, a new directorate of Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is to provide the UK with safe, environmentally sound and publicly acceptable options for the long-term management of radioactive materials. Packaging standards and specifications have been developed and have been promulgated to nuclear site operator, regulatory and authorising bodies. The waste packaging specification provides the foundation against which nuclear site operators can plan and develop waste management strategies that meet the needs of both the immediate short-term and future long-term requirements.

RWMD provides assistance to waste producers' waste management decisions by providing advice, and where appropriate endorsement of specific packaging proposals. This endorsement is indicated by the provision of a Letter of Compliance.

Site enabling work is continuing in preparation for the construction of the facility. Dounreay's redundant laundry has been demolished and the excavation of the footprint for this building is expected to commence within the next few weeks. Local contractor MM Miller was awarded the contract for the site enabling works.

The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Scotland Office, David Cairns, recently visited Dounreay to learn more about the decommissioning challenges facing the site.

Following his visit to site, the Minister said: "It has been very encouraging to come here today and see the way in which the legacy of the Dounreay project is being transformed through an ambitious programme of environmental restoration. We should be proud that Scotland is leading the way in the remediation of former nuclear facilities. Dounreay is a key driver of the local economy, employing over 2000 staff directly and indirectly. I am pleased to see the NDA is involved in a number of programmes and initiatives that seek to address the future of the local economy and community long after this decommissioning project has ended.

Randall Bargelt, Senior Site Programme Manager/Deputy Director, NDA, added: "The Minister has today seen first hand the challenges we face in tackling the biggest decommissioning project in Scotland. We have a committed workforce managed on-site by our contractor UKAEA and the NDA is equally committed to working with local organisations to support the area's regeneration."

Over the weekend (Sat 23rd/Sun 24th June) COMARE (Commitee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment) carried out field trials on Dunnet beach. The purpose was to see how well the monitoring vehicles, which have been improved since the last trials, performed under realistic test conditions. COMARE, SEPA and the Health Protection Agency were present on the beach to carry out the tests. They are currently reviewing the data collected and will report their findings shortly.

Meanwhile monitoring of Dunnet beach is nearing completion and will be reported in the next edition of the bulletin. To date no particles have been detected.

Two highly-visible buildings linked to the Dounreay site were demolished by UKAEA at the end of June.

The Viewfirth, originally an imposing private house in Thurso overlooking Thurso Bay and the Pentland Firth, was the headquarters of the Dounreay Sports & Social Club from February 1958 until its closure in March 2006. For many years it was the social focus for UKAEA employees, particularly those who came from outside Caithness. When the Club was wound up, the poor structural state of the building forced its demolition. UKAEA, on behalf of the NDA, have offered the site to the community and discussions are ongoing to determine what should be done with the site.

The former WWII air traffic control tower which had housed the Dounreay Visitor Centre for many years was demolished on 22 June - 47 years to the day after it opened as a visitor centre in 1960. It was severely damaged during the storms in October 2006, and was unable to re-open in 2007. At its peak the centre was welcoming thousands of visitors a year, making it one of the most popular visitor attractions in the far north. Dounreay will be providing an exhibition about the site decommissioning programme as part of the Caithness Horizons development in Thurso town hall, scheduled to open in 2008.

PFR decommissioning has taken another significant step towards dismantling the reactor with the successful completion of the diagrid drilling. The diagrid area is a plate on which the reactor core is mounted. Following de-fuelling, the reactor was fitted with a 'dummy' core to keep the sodium at the correct level for pump circulation until sodium removal commenced.

This innovative purpose designed and built rig used the same principles as previous PFR reactor drilling operations, the difference being the radius from the reactor core and the drill stem was unsupported. The sodium will drain down to the bottom of the reactor and will be removed using a combination of the existing extract pump and a newly designed combination camera and pump mechanism.

PFR Decommissioning Manager Dr Jim McCafferty explains: "The diagrid area of the reactor was identified as an area which would retain a significant volume of sodium if a method of draining could not be established. In addition the pioneering Water Vapour Nitrogen (WVN) process intended to remove residual sodium would have difficulty reaching this area of the reactor efficiently due to its complex configuration. The reactor dismantling project team was therefore asked to drain the diagrid, which they achieved by modifying the existing plenum drilling rig to reach the required target area. This initiative has potentially reduced the processing time and increased the areas accessible to the reactor WVN process."

The opportunity was also used to undertake a further series of radiological surveys in the reactor core area, which will be used in the future development of plans for dismantling the plant. Ron Hibbert, Reactor Dismantling Project Manager, said: "The specialist team led by Calder Bain, comprising UKAEA staff and contractors, has successfully and safely delivered this challenging package of work ahead of programme and to a very tight budget, no more can be asked or expected of them."

Alterations and construction work on Dounreay's approach road will begin in August, and last for 3-4 months. The changes are taking place in order to accommodate the enhanced safety measures necessary to gain entrance to the site, required by UKAEA's security regulator. They have been agreed with the regulators, stakeholders and safety advisors following a consultation process.

During construction works, the path on the west side of the main road will be closed off. Pedestrians will access the site via the path on the east side of the access road. Reception will be re-housed temporarily in portacabins situated next to the current building. As a result of the construction work, and the subsequent enhanced security requirements, access to the site by vehicles will be restricted.

If you are planning to visit Dounreay during the construction works, please allow yourself a little extra time to get onto site.

Longer version Of This Bulletin at


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