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Dounreay Bulletin - Issue 21

5th March 2007

Photograph of Dounreay Bulletin - Issue 21

Simon Middlemas has been appointed as the new director of the nuclear decommissioning site at Dounreay in succession to Norman Harrison. Simon has been acting director since August 2006 and prior to that he was deputy director. He joined Dounreay in 2004 as new build project sponsor. See:

Dounreay clean-up contractor UKAEA today welcomed an announcement by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority about funding for the site in 2007/08. The budget for the forthcoming year has been set at approximately 150 million, which is an increase on this year's funding level. See:

Dounreay is recruiting for its next batch of engineering decommissioning apprenticeships. UKAEA is looking for up to seven young people interested in starting a four-year training scheme in August. Applicants should live within travelling distance of Dounreay, be interested in engineering and be able to leave school this summer. More information about the places can be obtained from UKAEA's apprentice training department on 01847 802678. Closing date for applications is March 16.

In preparation for removing one of the largest hazards from its famous landmark dome, Dounreay is carrying out sampling of the radiologically contaminated liquid sodium-potassium (NaK), the coolant from the primary circuit of the Dounreay Fast Reactor. The last NaK samples were taken in the early 1980s. The former coolant is being sampled to determine the radionuclide and chemical impurities present, to ensure it's ready to be processed through the purpose built NaK destruction plant. See:

The breeder containment building, the imposing structure adjacent to the famous Dounreay sphere, is now fully clad and wind and water tight, with the installation of crucial processing equipment about to start. The pioneering plant to remove the breeder elements from the Dounreay Fast Reactor is beginning to take shape, with the 25 tonne crane already in position and the process cell now on site ready for the installation to begin. See:

One of Dounreay's "biggest eyesores" - the DN084 tank farm - has now been dismantled. The tank farm, which contained acids previously used by the D2900 maintenance and decontamination centre, sat in a deep concrete bund. See:

Recovery work at the Dounreay cementation plant (DCP) has now progressed to the point where workers in protective suits have been able to enter the main handling cell to remove contaminated plant and equipment. Completion of this phase of the recovery plan will take longer than anticipated, as UKAEA's fuel cycle area decommissioning manager Colin McColm explains. "Safety is our top priority on the site. It is of paramount importance that the work is properly supervised, and that engineering timescales are adequate for safe completion of the jobs. This will impact on the original recovery timetable although it is anticipated that the date for completing DCP's mission of processing raffinate will not be affected."

DCP has been shut down since a spillage of liquid waste raffinate and cement powder inside the shielded cave line during the filling of a waste drum in September 2005. It is expected to restart operations this year.

One of Dounreay's historical low-level waste pits, Pit 6, has recently been given a new cap, as the original infill had sunk over the years. As part of the re-capping works, a drain was put in to take the rainwater into the site drainage system. The pit was re-profiled and a tarpaulin spread over the top to make it water tight, with a layer of soil over the top. The pit will be grassed in the spring.

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 has the combined purpose of measuring radiation and videoing capabilities in an extreme environment where temperatures are in excess of 230C in addition to the high radiation levels. See:

The Highland Council has granted UKAEA planning permission for revised plans for the replacement ventilation project for Dounreay's Fuel Cycle Area (FCA) saving the tax payer in the region of 5 million.

The plans approved include the installation of two small stacks with fan arrangements and connective ducts. The replacement stacks will be considerably smaller than the existing stack reducing in height from 55 metres to 35 metres and diameters reduces from 4.5 metres to under 2 metres. One stack will be situated in the north of the FCA, in close proximity to the existing stack and the other in the south of the FCA. The plans also contain a duct depression building and a discharge monitoring system.

A statutory radiological stack discharge sampling system will be installed to modern standards to ensure regulatory compliance with the RSA certificate of Authorisation and the Pollution Prevention and Control Permit.

Iain Lyall, UKAEA's project manager, said: "UKAEA submitted revised plans for this project as optimising decommissioning of the Dounreay site has had significant impacts on the design for the replacement ventilation system whilst also saving the tax payer a vast sum of money. UKAEA only submitted these plans in mid December, so we are delighted with the Highland Council's quick decision."

UKAEA staff and contractors at the Dounreay site are participating in a sixty-day countdown in a quest for safety excellence. As part of ongoing initiatives to promote personnel safety at the site, management have launched the Dounreay Safety Challenge with a goal of achieving a continuous period of sixty days without experiencing a Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR) event; in other words one that requires medical treatment beyond simple first aid. This is an ambitious goal but one worth striving for and one that Dounreay has achieved in the past. The period of sixty days will be on a revolving basis and the clock will be reset following an event or upon reaching the target. Management will recognise the first 60-day goal by rewarding all staff with a half hour away from the workplace to enjoy a full Scottish breakfast in the site restaurant, whilst they are standing by to hand out a pair of designer sun/safety glasses.

UKAEA expects to announce in May the preferred option for the retrieval of radioactive particles from the environment around Dounreay. Public consultation on a short-list of 11 clean-up options closed on February 23.

UKAEA's director of safety Dr John Crofts said the announcement - known as the best practicable environmental option - would be an opportunity to demonstrate the ability of today's industry to clean up the legacy of past practices and reduce their impact on the environment. He was speaking outside Wick Sheriff Court where UKAEA was fined a total of 140,000 after pleading guilty to four breaches of the Radioactive Substances Act 1960 between 1963 and 1984. See:

Some of the leading figures in the UK nuclear clean-up business met at Dounreay February 19-21. The visit was an opportunity for senior business figures to see at first hand the progress being made to clean out and demolish the fast reactor. See:

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. See:

Highlands and Islands MSP and former Education Minister Peter Peacock made a fact-finding visit to Dounreay on February 26. See:

Two leading figures in the clean-up of Dounreay are among speakers lined up for a major conference on how the UK is dealing with contaminated land and radioactive wastes at its old nuclear sites. The two-day conference takes place in London on March 12-13 under the banner of the Safegrounds initiative. Among the speakers are Paul McClelland, head of waste management at Dounreay, and Doug Graham, the programme strategy manager who is leading work to identify the end state for the site once decommissioning is complete.

Dounreay Stakeholder Group held a special meeting on the February 15 to consider all the evidence from recent consultation on the condition that Dounreay should be left in once decommissioning is complete. At the meeting a number of presentations were given and a facilitated discussion followed to allow members to reach a conclusion. While no decision was made at the meeting the DSG will now consider all the information with a view to finalising a recommendation for endorsement at its next meeting to be held on March 14. This will then be submitted to the NDA by the end of March. See:

A warrant for the demolition of the former Dounreay Sports and Social Club at Viewfirth, Thurso, has been issued by Highland Council, clearing the way for the site to be levelled.

UKAEA Dounreay, on behalf of the NDA has made a donation towards new IT equipment for the children attending Thurso Gaelic Playgroup. The playgroup which is within Mount Pleasant School Grounds currently has 16 children attending. The new equipment will help to improve the children's learning, allowing them to use up-to-date software.


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