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2 April 04
Clean-up programme worth 313 million to be driven forward by new management team The  UK  Atomic  Energy  Authority  today  announced it is accelerating the decommissioning   of  the  former  experimental  reactor  establishment  at Dounreay.

Site   director   Norman   Harrison   said   the   timescale  for  complete decommissioning has been brought forward to 2047 reducing the timescale considerably from what was thought to be a possible 60 year programme.  New technology and methods are driving the timescale downwards.   2060 had been the year set in 2000 following the 1998 strategy.  This reduction in the time brings in massive reductions in costs.   In the short term over the next two years there will be more contracts available and an increase in the over spend by UKAEA.  Local Caithness firms and others in the highlands and elsewhere are likely to b in the bidding for these.

Norman Harrison And His Team At Announcement In Inverness

He  also announced a new management structure designed to sharpen the focus on delivering the site restoration plan on an even earlier timescale.

Details of the accelerated work programme are contained in a Near Term Work Plan  submitted  by  UKAEA  to  the  Liabilities  Management  Unit  of  the Department  of  Trade  and  Industry  and  its successor body, the proposed Nuclear  Decommissioning  Authority. The plan details the programme of work worth 313 million to decommission the site over the next two years.

Launching  a  summary of the plan, Norman Harrison said: "Nobody in western Europe  has more experience of managing the safe decommissioning of nuclear sites than UKAEA. This is underlined by the commitments we have made to the Government  to  accelerate  the  decommissioning  of Dounreay in a way that continues  to  be  safe,  secure  and environmentally responsible that I am announcing today.

'The   job   we  have  started  at  Dounreay  has  generated  new  business opportunities for companies in Caithness and Sutherland to become expert in the skills in decommissioning and has attracted some of the world's largest engineering,  environmental  and project management companies to this area.

With  their  help,  we  can  eliminate  more  of the hazards left over from Dounreay's  operational  days,  we  can do it quicker and we can do it more cost-effectively without jeopardising over our-riding priorities of safety, security  and environmental protection. This is good news for the taxpayer, it  is  good  news  for  the  environment  and  it  is  good news for local contractors.'

Subject  to  the  relevant  regulatory consents where appropriate, the plan includes:

  • Accelerating the immobilisation of hazardous liquid wastes left over
    from the reprocessing of research reactor fuel by two years to 2010.

  •  Public participation in proposals to accelerate the immobilisation of
    hazardous liquid wastes left over from the reprocessing of fast reactor

  • The destruction of more than 1000 tonnes of hazardous liquid metals
    used as coolant in the fast reactors.

  •  Isolation of the waste shaft from its hydrogeological environment
    four years earlier than previously forecast.

  • Plans for a new plant to destroy active solvents and oils left over
    from reprocessing and reactor operations. Following public participation in
    the options, UKAEA has concluded that incineration of the waste at Dounreay
    is the Best Practicable Environmental Option.

  • Development of new facilities for the management of low-level waste
    from the decommissioning programme following public participation in the
    options. An announcement about the Best Practicable Environmental Option is
    due to be made in Spring.

  • Demolition of decommissioned test cells and other buildings.

  • The beginning of construction of facilities for the removal of stuck
    breeder fuel from the Dounreay Fast Reactor.

  • Agreement on the Best Practicable Environmental Option for management
    of particles in the marine environment following public participation in
    the options.

Delivery of these and other important tasks in the Near Term Work Plan will be  led  by a new management team designed to sharpen focus on acceleration of  the  site  restoration  plan. A new structure is being put in place and subject  to regulatory consent announcements about key appointments will be made in the near future.

Dounreay was Britain's centre of fast reactor research and development from 1955 until 1994. Three nuclear reactors, fuel reprocessing and other associated nuclear facilities were built and operated on a 140-acre. The site is now being decommissioned at an estimated total cost in the region of 4 billion. The decommissioning programme is prioritised towards reducing and eliminating the greatest hazards first.

UKAEA are now aiming to have the waste shaft fully dealt with by 2021 with costs of up to 87million plus waste management costs of around 40 - 50 million over 5 years.

UKAEA are making a planning application to Highland Council to store up to 10,000 cubic metres of waste on the site in a new storage unit.  This is the equivalent of approximately 77 double decker buses.   Special containers will be used designed for the long term storage of the waste from the shaft.  but before any work begins to remove the waste the shaft will be sealed off several metres away on all side and underneath by a specially designed jacket.   A specially made cement will be produced to fill the tiny fissures in the surrounding rock to prevent any water entering or leaving the shaft before work begins.

The summary of the Near Term Work Plan for Dounreay can be found at www.ukaea.org.uk/reports/sites.htm

Under Government proposals, a new organisation known as the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority will become responsible for the strategic direction and funding of the decommissioning of UKAEA and BNFL sites from 1 April 2005. The Liabilities Management Unit of the Department of Trade and Industry is preparing the ground for this new body. Initially, UKAEA and BNFL will be contracted by the NDA to manage the decommissioning of their respective sites.

Decommissioning Dounreay is worth approximately 80 million a year to the economy of the Highlands in general and Caithness and north Sutherland in particular through nett salaries, pensions, contracts and sub-contracts.  One in five jobs in Caithness and north Sutherland depend on decommissioning.  Across Scotland, it accounts for 2,930 jobs.

Public participation in the options for disposal of radioactive solvents and oils at Dounreay was a pilot project for consultation in waste management decisions at the site. A total of 18 written responses were
received during a 12-week period of consultation. A report on the consultation and its outcome is being issued today to stakeholders, and can be found at www.ukaea.org.uk/dounreay/dsrpnews.htm