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Dounreay Bulletin
April 2004

Scotland’s Deputy First Minister visited Dounreay on April 16th and learned how local engineering expertise is being used to help decommission the landmark Dounreay Fast Reactor. Jim Wallace, who is also Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning and MSP for Orkney, toured the famous Dome of Discovery and met Alex and Pat Grant, whose company Norfrost Technologies Ltd has manufactured a device for taking a sample of the crust on the liquid metal coolant. The tool has been lowered into position and is expected to take the sample in the near future. The results will provide information that is essential for the safe destruction of the liquid metal coolant. Mr Wallace was accompanied by John Thurso MP and Jamie Stone MSP. Also present was Carroll Buxton, chief executive of Caithness and Sutherland Enterprise. Site director Norman Harrison, who hosted the visit, said: “The Norfrost contract is a good example of how decommissioning at Dounreay is opening up new markets for local engineering expertise, both here at the site and elsewhere in the UK and abroad as more of the old nuclear technology is dismantled. It’s a real win-win situation.”

John Gunn & Son, of Lybster, Caithness, has been awarded a contract for the removal of old foundations, floor slabs and steel stubs from building structural steelwork around the Dounreay Fast Reactor. This is ground preparatory work in advance of construction of decommissioning facilities at DFR. It follows the recent completion by Gunn of demolition of the DFR seawater pumphouse and a modular office facility. The same firm recently demolished D9952, the Vehicle Weather Air Lock building.

The first phase of decommissioning Lab 33 at Dounreay is now complete. A single cell, Lab 33 was constructed in the 1950s for post-irradiation examination of irradiated fuel experiments. It was mothballed following the closure of the Prototype Fast Reactor in 1994. An interesting feature of Lab 33 was a turntable constructed from a gun turret salvaged from HMS Howe, one of the last battleships built on the Clyde and which was scrapped in 1958. Several tons of steel salvaged from the hull of the same ship was used at Dounreay as shielding for equipment used to measure radiation. The six-inch thick steel was made before 1945, which meant it had not been exposed to any fall-out from nuclear weapons during its production which could affect the radiation readings.

The annual inspection and maintenance by divers of the seabed outfall off Dounreay commences on April 19th. Once this is complete, the divers will also carry out some further surveys of the seabed as part of the particles investigation programme. They are expected to spend about 30 working days in total on the seabed. A separate exercise to take samples of the seabed is also taking place offshore during April. This work is providing information for a Site Wide Environment Statement that is mapping the present condition of the environment in and around Dounreay.

A contract has been awarded to JGC Engineering and Technical Services, Harpsdale, to fabricate and install three replacement link ventilation ducts from facilities within the site’s waste management complex to the area’s main underground ventilation duct. The new link ducts will replace the systems installed in the 1950s. The work is due for completion in July of this year.

A group of thirteen engineers and scientists from the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan visited Dounreay recently to learn about removing liquid metal coolant residues and how this experience can be used in the decommissioning of their BN-350 reactor, sited near Aktau on the shore of the Caspian Sea. The visit was organised by RWE Nukem as part of a DTI programme to assist former Soviet countries deal with their nuclear legacies. The group was interested in how UKAEA is removing the residues of liquid metal from the Prototype Fast Reactor. They also visited the cementation plant on site where waste is conditioned and stored in drums. Dr Peter Thompson, UKAEA’s international collaboration manager, said: “They have a backlog of liquors that have to be treated, so cementation is an obvious route.” Alexandr Klepikov, part of the delegation, said the visit went very well with many useful discussions. “We were very impressed with the facilities we were shown, in particular, the water vapour nitrogen plant,” he said.

Industrial and civic leaders from Russia's closed atomic cities have been in Scotland to learn how Dounreay and the local community has been adjusting to its new life as a centre for decommissioning. The visit was part of an initiative by Britain's Department of Trade and Industry to help the closed cities of the former Soviet Union to find alternative non-weapons employment as part of international efforts to counter nuclear proliferation. It also aims to promote sustained economic development in the cities.

A 15-strong party representing 10 cities, including mayors and industrial leaders, visited Scotland as part of a week-long fact-finding visit to the UK. Their cities face thousands of job losses with the rundown of work in former atomic sites.

Colin Punler, UKAEA's communications manager at Dounreay, described how the site had made the transition from operations to decommissioning, with growth in training, jobs and contract opportunities. The conference also heard from Neil Money, former head of the decommissioning task force set up by the HIE network, and Carol Gunn, of Caithness and Sutherland Enterprise.

Part of the former Dounreay farmhouse which played an important part in a national mapping exercise over 50 years ago has been preserved for posterity at the Dounreay visitor centre. The stone building block, which was recovered from the demolition of the building last year, has an Ordnance Survey benchmark cut into it, dating from sometime between 1936 and 1952. This was the period during which the Ordnance Survey carried out its second geodetic levelling. The levelling is based on the Ordnance Datum, which is the mean level of the sea at Newlyn in Cornwall, which was calculated from hourly readings of the sea level recorded on an automatic tide gauge from 1 May 1915 to 30 April 1921. This tide gauge is situated in the Ordnance Survey Tidal Observatory on the south pier at Newlyn, and readings are related to the Observatory Bench Mark, which is 4.751 m (15.588 ft) above the datum. The Bench Mark on

Lower Dounreay Farmhouse stone is 15.24 metres. This is its height above the Observatory Bench Mark at Newlyn. The stone was part of the farmhouse, which was built in 1859 and demolished last year to clear the ground for new waste treatment plants. The visitor centre opened at Easter.

The relocation of UKAEA’s design section drawing office to new accommodation at Dounreay has paid dividends, according to section manager Alan Simpson. Previously located in a controlled area of the site, it is now located in the new office block known as D2003. "It's an ideal environment for our draughtspersons and, given the closeness of the design engineers, we handle a wide variety of tasks which permits a huge opportunity for development." The Section uses the most up-to-date equipment, providing support to a wide diversity of customer needs, including diagrams for procedures and 3D modelling in support of sanction cases, whilst retaining traditional manual draughting. Given the sensitivity of many projects security is also an important factor, according to Jared Fraser, the drawing office supervisor. "The team's work on security drawings also required permanent walls and security locks on all entrances. A recent audit by the Office of Civil Security commented positively on the system employed by the team."

Thanks to fund-raising events organised by the Dounreay secretarial trainees, extra facilities for the hard of hearing have been installed at Caithness General Hospital, Wick. The trainees raised £1,348 and divided it equally between Caithness General, the Caithness branches of ENABLE and Diabetes UK, and the Dunbar Hospital, Thurso. Caithness General matched the donation and installed an in-built deaf loop system in the reception and bought four portable deaf loops. Two of the trainees, Hayley Polson and Shona Campbell, were guests of the hospital to see what their efforts had achieved. Pauline Craw, Nursing Manager, said the new facilities would be very beneficial, particularly the portable units. “Without the donation it is unlikely we would have been able to provide all the systems at present. For that reason we are very grateful to the Dounreay trainees for their efforts and kindness.”