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UK's First Purpose Built Nuclear Decommissioning Test Centre

9th August 2006

Photograph of UK's First Purpose Built Nuclear Decommissioning Test Centre

UKAEA today welcomed the arrival of Britain's first purpose-built nuclear decommissioning test centre.

The T3UK complex, incorporating a research institute of the UHI Millennium Institute, aims to become the country's leading site for trialling the techniques and equipment needed to safely dismantle Britain's nuclear legacy, as well as undertaking test work for the offshore and environmental sectors.

It is a spin-off from work originally commissioned by UKAEA to prove a safe method of cleaning out liquid metal from the cooling circuits of the Prototype Fast Reactor at Dounreay.

An alliance of companies developed a test rig on a disused industrial estate at Janetstown near Thurso, Caithness, and their success in the sodium destruction trials led to proposals for a full-scale commercial test centre.

The new facilities have been built by the Highlands and Islands Enterprise network, in collaboration with part funding from the European Union, and are leased to and managed by T3UK Ltd. They include a large trials hall capable of simulating working conditions inside nuclear facilities, conference facilities, laboratories and is also home to the Decommissioning and Environmental Remediation Centre of the North Highland College UHI Millennium Institute.

Speaking today at a conference at T3UK to mark its official launch, UKAEA acting chief operating officer Norman Harrison said it was an asset that Britain in general and Scotland in particular could be proud of.

"This centre gives companies the opportunity to simulate the conditions inside a nuclear plant, without the hazard of radioactivity, to test their equipment and train their staff," he said.

"That can only bring benefits in terms of safety and performance, and I am delighted that UKAEA played a part in the birth of these splendid new facilities through the work we brought here originally with the Alkali Metal Residue Recovery Alliance.

"Those early trials proved that water vapour nitrogen was a safe way to clean out and destroy the residues of liquid metal inside the cooling pipe work. As a result, we propose to use this technique to destroy the liquid metal residues left in the reactor vessels of both the Prototype Fast Reactor and Dounreay Fast Reactor."

Also speaking at today's conference was John Lehew, head of decommissioning
at Dounreay, who spoke about his experience of cleaning up nuclear sites in the USA with CH2MHILL, one of UKAEA's new business partners.

He said: "This facility at Janetstown provides significant benefit to the site by allowing mock-up operation and demonstration of high-hazard decommissioning work which allows the work to be performed more safely and with less risk to the worker, both from a radiological exposure standpoint as well as from and industrial safety standpoint. Similar processes of equipment and plant development/optimization have been used in the US. This is to ensure the systems function as designed in before they are actually put to use in a contaminated decommissioning environment."


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