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Dounreay Bulletin - Issue 9

8th August 2007

The annual report on progress to decommission Dounreay has been published by UKAEA, which is responsible for carrying out the safe clean-up and demolition of the site on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA). It covers the 12-month period from April 1, 2006. See:

The first nuclear chain reaction took place at Dounreay, in Cell 1 of the Experimental Criticality Facility, code-named D1249. The building has now been decommissioned and demolished, just one of some ninety nine facilities demolished since the site's decommissioning began.

The plutonium criticality building which is adjacent to D1249's cleared site is also on the point of being demolished. Codenamed D8550, the facility owed its existence to the passing of the McMahon Act in the US in 1946, which effectively destroyed collaboration between the UK and the US in nuclear energy. Because the US experimental data on uranium and plutonium criticality was unavailable to the UK, a new laboratory was built at Dounreay to carry out a ground-breaking programme of criticality experiments on plutonium-bearing materials for the benefit of the UK nuclear industry as a whole.

Decommissioning began in 2000 and the work has been carried out without a major safety incident in the last 6 years. UKAEA's site decommissioning manager Steve Beckitt expects to be able to demolish the shell of the building during the winter, bringing to a close the story of Dounreay's important contribution to nuclear criticality research.

A major conference to explore the social and economic prospects for Caithness beyond decommissioning of Dounreay is to be held in Thurso on Friday, September 14. The conference will look at economic growth, including new and existing business, energy opportunities and how to utilise the assets and skills currently deployed on the decommissioning programme. It is being hosted by Caithness Partnership and Dounreay Stakeholder Group. For more information, contact June Pollard at Caithness Partnership on 01955 606483 or caithnesspartnership[AT]

The NDA has published its Operational Review for 2006/7. The review details performance and progress in safety, security, and environment, decommissioning, value for money, competition, radioactive waste management, commercial operation, technology, skills and research and development and the industry-wide pension scheme. The review identifies operational highlights and lists the key challenges facing the Authority in the future. See:

Thorium exported to Peru in 1998 for use in the manufacture of gas mantles has now been returned safely to Dounreay. The material was unused by the customer who did not have suitable facilities to process or dispose of it. A team from Dounreay travelled to Peru recently to package the material for shipment. It has now arrived back at Dounreay, where it will be conditioned along with other thorium held at the site to make it safe for long-term storage or disposal as intermediate-level waste.

The August edition of "Dounreay News", the newspaper for the site workforce, has been published and can be found at:

The first newsletter outlining progress made on the development of the National Skills Academy for Nuclear has been published. The Academy is being created to help nuclear employers tackle the current and future skills barriers and challenges facing the nuclear industry. To address these challenges the Academy will nurture a consolidated approach to skills development, investigate ways of skills transference across the sector and promote career choices. For further information see:


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