Half the fuel gone from iconic Dounreay reactor
15th October 2019
Half of the last remaining radioactive fuel elements jammed for decades inside the iconic Dounreay Fast Reactor (DFR) have now been removed.
DFR with its famous dome once led the world in fast breeder technology.
The reactor was built in the 1950s at a time when there was a worldwide shortage of uranium for electricity generation. Its core was surrounded by a blanket of natural uranium elements that, when exposed to the effects of the radiation, would "breed" to create a new fuel, plutonium. After the reactor closed in 1977 most of the core fuel was removed. But work to remove elements from the breeder zone came to a halt when some were found to be swollen and jammed. Almost 1,000 - around two-thirds of the total – were left in place.
Decommissioning the 60-year-old reactor is one of the most technically challenging projects in the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority estate and removing the breeder elements has been a top priority.
After designing and testing remotely-operated equipment, a decommissioning team began recovering the elements in 2017, using purpose-built tools that reached down into the reactor to cut the breeder elements free and lift them into a flask for removal to the next stage of the process.
The success of the locally manufactured tooling has played a big part in the successful removal of half the remaining radioactive fuel inventory inside the reactor vessel. Local companies who manufactured mechanical equipment to demanding timescales included JGC Engineering and Technical, Precision Machining Services, and Calder Engineering. Contec Design Services carried out electrical, control and instrumentation works.
Senior Project Manager Raymond Hill commented:This is a challenging project and I am pleased that we are making good progress on the removal of the elements, which is contributing towards the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority's mission to clean up the UK’s nuclear legacy.
Dounreay is exploring ways of decommissioning with the help of robotics experts. The nuclear site at Dounreay, which was the centre of the UK's research into fast reactor technology in the last century, is being cleaned up and taken apart.
DSRL and LLWR to become NDA subsidiaries. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has announced that Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd (DSRL) and LLW Repository Ltd (LLWR) will become wholly owned subsidiaries of the NDA next year.
Two officers based at Dounreay received prestigious awards from Chief Constable Simon Chesterman this week in recognition of their long service and good conduct. Supt Andy Peden, who is Operational Unit Commander (OUC) at Dounreay, received a Certificate of Service, having joined us in 1980.
More than 30 community groups received help from a fund supported by Dounreay and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority during the COVID-19 crisis. In March 2020, Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd anticipated an upsurge in demand from community organisations for small-scale financial assistance.
A charity which delivers vital medical supplies for the NHS is set to receive £10,000 from Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd (DSRL). The cash will enable Highland and Islands Blood Bikes to establish a permanent presence in Caithness.
Around 80 portable accommodation units deemed surplus to requirements are being removed from the site and transported to England to be used as isolation cubicles in the prison service. Known as Bunkabins, the demountable cabins have been located at the site for the last five years.
Dounreay is working with the community to provide assistance during the coronavirus outbreak. Protecting our site We have reduced operations at the site to a level where we require a minimum number of people to leave their homes each day to keep Dounreay in a safe and secure state.
Employees from across the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority group have been honoured at a prestigious national awards ceremony in London. The Women in Nuclear (WiN) Annual Awards recognises those who have gone above and beyond to promote gender balance and diversity across the nuclear sector.
The latest particle find on the Dounreay foreshore was on 17th January 2020. See the updated list.
We're looking for your input to help shape future engagement. The on-line survey only takes 10-15 minutes to finish and gives stakeholders, with an interest in the NDA's decommissioning and clean-up mission, a chance to air their views on progress - and on how they can do things better.