A Decade In The Un-making - Decommissioning Dounreay
10th April 2018
Decommissioning a nuclear reactor is about more than removing the core itself and, around a decade after work started to pull apart a host of support facilities associated with Dounreay's oldest reactor, they have all gone.
Radioactive facilities, including a cooling pond, storage compound and examination cells assisted Dounreay Materials Test Reactor (DMTR) during its operational life. All have now been safely and painstakingly stripped out, culminating in the support building itself being removed from the landscape.
That final demolition included removal of a 27-tonne crane and several hundred pieces of cladding. Work to dismantle the inside of the structure saw remotely operated Brokks being deployed as well as a mobile crane which lifted 26-tonne shielded doors out through the roof.
Project Manager, Bill Lambie, said: "The final demolition of this complex is a significant achievement for all of those involved and represents a major step towards the ultimate removal of Scotland's oldest operational reactor. This was an area of the site with a highly radioactive inventory, large waste volumes and defunct plant and equipment.
"Now, due to the commitment and professionalism of the team, we have dealt with those hazards by applying innovation while keeping safety as the number one priority. This has been a team effort between Dounreay staff and a number of highly-experienced contractors including Nuvia, GDES, Matom and JGC Engineering."
The successful conclusion of this project leaves the reactor structure itself to be removed, with 5 companies bidding for the 3-year £7 million clean-up job. A contract is expected to be awarded later this year.
Bill added: "This is the first of three reactors that will be removed as part of the contract to decommission Dounreay. The knowledge, experience and skills gained by the team in the last decade will help other projects at the site as well as further afield."
DMTR was the first operational research reactor to achieve criticality in Scotland in May 1958. It had a thermal output of 25MWth and supported the site's fast reactor research programme, before closing in 1969.
Dounreay is Scotland's largest nuclear decommissioning project and is widely recognised as Europe’s most complex nuclear closure programme. The work is being delivered by Dounreay Site Restoration Limited, a company owned by Cavendish Dounreay Partnership, on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.
Mark Raffle, NDA Lead Programme Manager, Dounreay, said: “The removal of this significant support complex, which for many years played a key role in various site operations, is a clear demonstration of decommissioning progress on site. Its removal facilitates further work, including the removal of the DMTR."
Work has started to make safe one of the most hazardous materials left at Dounreay. Highly radioactive liquid, known as raffinate, has been stored in tanks for around 20 years after being produced as a by-product of Prototype Fast Reactor (PFR) fuel reprocessing.
Construction of a new facility to support the decommissioning of reactors and demolition of historic active laboratories are just two of Dounreay's major projects expected to be delivered as part of a new framework agreement, potentially worth up to £400 million, which is being published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) today. - www.ojeu.eu The decommissioning services framework agreement will initially be for a period of up to 4 years with the possibility of extensions of up to 3 years meaning skyline changes could be delivered over the next decade under the arrangements.
Engineers at Dounreay have raided a scrap car and a kitchen can opener to help decommission one of the site's reactors. The handbrake from a vintage 1968 Ford Cortina has been used to help steer a camera, attached to wheels taken from can openers, into the Prototype Fast Reactor (PFR) where a detailed survey inside the plant was completed.
Dounreay Site Restoration Limited has submitted a planning application to the Highland Council covering a series of decommissioning projects expected to take place between 2018 and the site's shut down, also known as the interim end state. The application, which is the last of three planning phases covering the overall decommissioning of the site, follows engagement undertaken earlier this year including public events and an opportunity to comment on draft documents online.
Drone technology is helping Dounreay reduce the risk of accidents and save money on its inspection of buildings. A camera mounted on an unmanned aerial vehicle is taking over tasks previously carried out by workers on elevated work platforms.
Work is underway to retrieve the last remaining radioactive fuel elements that have been stuck for decades inside the iconic Dounreay Fast Reactor (DFR). The experimental dome-shaped nuclear reactor once led the world in fast breeder technology and after it closed in 1977 most of the core fuel was removed.
Eleven young people who have completed their Dounreay apprentice training are "very much a part of the future of the far north." Guest speaker Jamie Stone MP told the audience at the apprentice indenture ceremony that took place last Friday that, as Dounreay continues to decommission, the newly indentured apprentices would be an important part of the area's ability to offer a skilled and innovative workforce. Dounreay Managing Director and former nuclear industry apprentice Phil Craig added: “I am very proud that we are celebrating yet another group of talented apprentices.
Companies are being invited to LINC together and support Scotland's largest decommissioning project thanks to an innovative new scheme designed to increase the number of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) delivering clean-up work at Dounreay. Up to five companies will be invited to help understand and develop the best proposal for size-reducing all of the machinery and components that will need to be removed from Dounreay's Prototype Fast Reactor (PFR) - the largest to be built at the Caithness site.
Graduates from as far afield as Portugal and London arrived in Caithness last week to kick start their career at Dounreay. Ten new recruits have started on the two-year graduate scheme with educational backgrounds as diverse as engineering, law and digital forensics and ethical hacking.
It is 60 years this weekend since the first criticality was achieved in Scotland using a test rig at Dounreay. Now the decommissioning team responsible for the site is marking that milestone by taking a major step towards demolishing the oldest reactor that remains at the former fast reactor research centre.
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