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The UK Atomic Energy Authority at Dounreay today announced it has invited interest from companies capable of delivering a key project in the site restoration plan.

UKAEA Dounreay wants to form an alliance of companies that can provide it with a secure and modern facility to store conditioned intermediate-level radioactive waste (ILW) arising from the site restoration work over the next 50-60 years.

The formation of the alliance next year is expected to result in the largest block of contracts to be let at Dounreay since the site restoration plan was published two years ago.

Construction of the store is expected to begin in 2005, with the facility  ready for active commissioning by the end of 2008.  In the region of 200 jobs will be created during its construction, which is expected to cost several tens of millions of pounds.

Restoring the environment of Dounreay is forecast to produce almost 10,000m3 of intermediate-level waste (ILW) conditioned in drums of cement.

This is equivalent in volume to 70 double-decker buses.

Artists Impression Of Possible Site Lay Out - subject to alterations

At present in the UK, there is no nationally-agreed strategy for the long-term management of ILW, so the proposed new store will aim to provide a secure storage environment for conditioned waste at Dounreay pending a national strategy for the long-term storage or disposal of ILW.

Known as the ILW Conditioned Waste Store, it is a cornerstone of the site restoration plan because the timescales for a number of major decommissioning projects at Dounreay hinge on its availability.

UKAEA Dounreay director Peter Welsh said: "The new store will be fundamental to the management of existing and future arisings of ILW from the site restoration work, and its delivery by the end of 2008 is one of the key milestones in our plan. It will provide a safe and secure environment for ILW until such time as a national solution is determined."

Mr Neil Money, director of the decommissioning strategy task force at Highlands and Islands Enterprise, said: "This major project emphasises the important role that traditional civil engineering skills will play in the decommissioning of Dounreay. Scotland has a long heritage of companies with civil engineering expertise that is second to none and this is an opportunity for Highland and Scottish businesses to become involved in the decommissioning process.  The HIE/CASE Task Force is available to help businesses to maximise the benefits of decommissioning contracts."

Further Information
Solid intermediate-level waste has been generated at Dounreay since the first experiments were carried out during the 1950s in support of fast reactor research and development. Typically it consists of metal fuel wrappers, and circuitry and components from reactors and fuel facilities.

Solid ILW was disposed of to the waste shaft between 1958 and the  1970s, and latterly stored in a wet silo.  Current arisings of solid ILW are stored in drums in dry interim stores. Waste in all these facilities will be retrieved, conditioned and stored in the new facility. This will account for about a third of the waste that will be stored in the new facility, with the remainder forecast to arise from operations to dismantle the site.

A separate facility to condition the solid waste in cement prior to storage will be required.

Liquid ILW from historic reprocessing operations is conditioned in the Dounreay Cementation Plant, which immobilises the waste in cement set inside drums.

 UKAEA has invited expressions of interest from suitably qualified companies. The alliance will be formed during 2003 and contract negotiations for delivery of the store concluded by early 2005. The project is a candidate for funding as a Public Private Partnership. A final decision on how it will be funded is expected to be made in 2005.

The conditioned waste store will house only conditioned ILW from the decommissioning of UKAEA Dounreay and the adjoining Vulcan reactor test facility operated by Rolls Royce on behalf of the Royal Navy.

The Dounreay Site Restoration Plan was published by UKAEA in October 2000. It can be viewed at www.ukaea.org.uk

The HIE/CASE decommissioning Task Force is located in the Thurso offices of Caithness & Sutherland Enterprise. Neil Money can be contacted on 01847 805208 or be e-mail at n.money@hient.co.uk