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Dounreay News Bulletin Number 27 - May 2006

27th May 2006

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Issue 27 22 May 2006
A key phase in the decommissioning of the Dounreay Fast Reactor (DFR) has been completed with the installation of a replacement ventilation system, comprising 1.5 kilometres of stainless steel ducting and costing £6.5 million.

The 50-year-old ventilation needed to be replaced so that the sphere could be decommissioned safely. The new system will provide better segregation of active areas, improved availability and back-up systems, reliability, control and flexibility to connect to existing systems already in place. The work is an integral part of the preparation for the destruction of the 57 tonnes of primary circuit liquid metal remaining in the reactor vessel, which will be processed through the NaK Disposal Plant, scheduled to commence operation shortly. The DFR ventilation project also included the successful installation in 2001 of a new ventilation stack.

Caithness-based contractor Orion D Gow & Son of Lybster carried out the ventilation work on behalf of UKAEA and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. It was responsible for the manufacture and installation of stainless steel ductwork, the procurement and installation of associated hardware and the project management. The £6.5m project, involved several key phases, including the installation of four new floors, a new fire escape and the upgrade of the adjacent element storage building. The largest duct, measuring eight hundred millimetres in diameter, runs for over fifty metres within the famous DFR sphere. During the project essential work was also carried out by Amec, Mitsui Babcock Energy Ltd., Isleburn and Jacobs Babtie.

Approximately 12 kilogrammes of foreign-owned nuclear material was removed from Dounreay on May 8 as part of the decommissioning of the site's Fuel Cycle Area. The low-enriched uranium (LEU) had been in storage at Dounreay since being recovered from German research reactor fuel reprocessed at the site in the early 1990s. The material transferred to French ownership and has now been removed from Dounreay to France where it will be used to manufacture new reactor fuel. Waste generated during the reprocessing of the uranium is to be repatriated to Germany.

A second survey of the whole beach at Dunnet is being carried out by RWE Nukem for UKAEA on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. This second survey is being conducted to provide information on whether further particles are present on the beach and the activity and position of any particles found. The first scan a year ago detected a small radioactive particle from Dounreay, a piece of contaminated plastic of unknown origin and several naturally radioactive stones. Subject to weather and access agreements with land-owners, the survey is due for completion in early June. A separate survey of the strandline at Dunnet every quarter has been included by SEPA in the formal requirements for beaches monitoring carried out for UKAEA.

The board of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority got a close-up look at the progress being made to decommission Britain's fast reactor legacy when it visited Dounreay on April 27. UKAEA site director Norman Harrison welcomed the board to Dounreay and updated its directors on areas such as accelerated decommissioning, a reorganisation of staff and improvements to safety culture.
Accompanied by John Lehew, who recently joined the site from CH2MHILL as Dounreay decommissioning unit manager, the board visited the Dounreay cementation plant and saw the progress being made to resume later this year the treatment of liquid waste left over the site's days as a reprocessing plant. Later, they visited the Prototype Fast Reactor and toured the progress being made to destroy the sodium coolant, dismantle the various components and clean out the ancillary facilities.

Like huge, glass-fronted cells resembling something out of a sci-fi movie, the PFR cave is an imposing sight for unfamiliar eyes. Now, work has been successfully completed to overhaul the irradiated fuel cave, situated on the first floor of the Prototype Fast Reactor hall. The cave, last used in 1996 to prepare fuel and other components for storage or disposal as waste, is equipped with two hoists which are maintained in a maintenance cell that can be isolated from the main cave by a 76-tonne door. An inflatable seal on this door permits an air atmosphere to be maintained in the maintenance cell while the main cave remains under nitrogen.

The cave will now be used for the next phase of the reactor decommissioning programme, to allow the strip out work to start and preparation to handle reactor components and material from other plants over the next decade. Sub-assemblies from the corrosion experiments in the 1980s will be the first items to be transferred to the cave in order to be stabilised prior to long-term storage. See Here

Sixteen members and officials of the Highland Council paid a visit to Dounreay on April 28 to see for themselves the dramatic changes taking place at Dounreay. For some of the group, it was the first time they had visited the site since its operational days in the 1990s, and the change to decommissioning, with major demolition and construction works now taking place across the site, was apparent.

Senior project manager and geologist Warren Jones took the group on a guided tour of the works now taking place around the waste shaft in preparation for the first phase of its decommissioning. This is now one of the busiest areas of the site, with major work underway to build a raise working platform all around the shaft before the first boreholes are drilled later this year to enable the rock around the shaft to be sealed with grout. The group also visited the WRACS facility, where low-level waste generated during the clean-out and dismantling of facilities on the site is sent for checking, assay and super-compaction to get it ready for eventual disposal.

Site director Norman Harrison, who welcomed the group to Dounreay, outlined the socio-economic challenges and the impact on employment projections of speeding up or slowing down the programme.

Efforts to regenerate the Pulteneytown area of Wick received a boost when the community-led project relocated to new and larger office accommodation. Dounreay director Norman Harrison, who officially opened the new premises, told invited guests: "The success of Dounreay over many years has been in no small way due to the support it receives from the community, and it is important to me and everyone at the site that we play our full part in helping the community when it needs help. When I first visited Pulteneytown, I was struck immediately by the enthusiasm, the commitment, the vision and the drive of the residents to fulfil their ambitions. The progress they have made in a very short space of time is exceptional, and I am delighted that Dounreay has been able to play a part in their success."

Dounreay has provided support for a number of community-led initiatives in the neighbourhood, including a £50,000 sponsorship package last year to mark the 50th anniversary of the site.

A delegation from Dounreay travelled to the Scottish Parliament on May 3 to brief MSPs on progress being made to develop a new disposal facility for low-level waste from the decommissioning of Dounreay. An application for planning permission is expected to be lodged with Highland Council in the near future.

Following a competitive tendering exercise, the UKAEA has awarded a Framework Contract to Sureclean Ltd, of Alness, Ross-shire, to provide a licensed asbestos removal service on site. The contract, which will be operated on a "call-off" basis, will run for two years, with an option to extend. Sean Granville, sales manager with Sureclean Ltd, said that they were delighted to have won this contract. "Since being formed in 1985, we have built up a wide-ranging portfolio particularly within the environmental and waste management sectors, together with a strong, satisfied customer base. We look forward to working on the Dounreay site, assisting the UKAEA drive forward the decommissioning programme, on behalf of the NDA."

A 60-minute TV programme charting the history of the fast reactor experiment at Dounreay is to be broadcast on BBC 4 at 9pm on Monday, May 22, as part of a series about energy. Dounreay: The Atomic Dream was first shown on BBC2 Scotland.

Arnold Wagner, director of human resources at Smiths Group plc, a global engineering group with divisions operating in aerospace, detection, medical devices and speciality engineering components, has been appointed to the board of UKAEA.
See Here

Number of days since a lost time accident - 72 days
(No. of man-hours since a lost time accident - 992,592 hours)
Liquid metal destroyed in decommissioning Prototype Fast Reactor
Volume - 1136 tonnes
Percentage complete - 75 %
NB Plant currently shut down while major reactor components are jacked up out of their seal. SDP expected to start in May 2006
Research reactor reprocessing liquor conditioned as solid intermediate-level waste
Total no. of drums to date - 1879
Percentage complete to date - 37.6%
Conditioned in current financial year - 105m3
NB Plant currently shut down while spillage is cleaned up.
Solid Low Level Waste processed for disposal
Target for financial year -1100 drums
Total so far this financial year - 869 drums
Employment levels

UKAEA - Full Time Equivalents March 1171 April 1172 May 1173
Sub-contractors - number of personal passes March 1236 April 1236 May 1220
Sub-contractors - number of gate-held passes March 232 April 232 May 232


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