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1 July 03
The closing date for comments is 30 September 2003.

UKAEA Dounreay today invited members of the public to have their say in the options  for disposal of radioactive solvents and oils that are a legacy of fast reactor research and development at the Caithness site.

Launching  the  second  stage  of  a  pilot for public participation in the Dounreay Site Restoration Plan, site director Peter Welsh said it was a new opportunity  for individuals and organisations to communicate directly with UKAEA about how the site is decommissioned and its environment restored.

"The Dounreay Site Restoration Plan is an opportunity not only to break new ground  in the environmental restoration of one of the world's most complex nuclear facilities but also in how we involve stakeholders in the process," he said. "Public participation is a new development for Dounreay and one we want to learn from. I hope the stakeholders who want to help us deliver the site  restoration  plan  will  assist  us  not  only  to  identify the most appropriate disposal method for the solvents and oils but also help develop and improve the process of public participation through experience."

The  pilot  project  seeks  to  engage  the  public  in developing the best practicable  environmental  option  (BPEO) for the disposal of solvents and oils  used  in reactor and fuel reprocessing operations. They are currently stored safely in tanks at the site pending their disposal.   From 18 options originally considered by UKAEA, three basic options emerged for  dealing  with the waste. These are alkaline hydrolysis, solidification and  incineration,  and each involves the construction of new facilities at Dounreay  or  transport to existing industrial waste facilities in England.

Preliminary  scoring  of  each  option  against  a  range of environmental, technical,   health  and  safety,  and  financial  attributes, where  each attribute  is  given a weighting proportionate to its importance, points to incineration as low-level waste in a new plant at Dounreay as the preferred method.

Two  panels  of local stakeholders were facilitated independently by Galson Sciences  Ltd  and  reviewed  UKAEA's  preliminary  findings.  The  panels' findings,  together  with  detailed  technical reports, are being published today  along  with  a  summary  paper  that  is being distributed widely to stakeholders. The closing date for comments is 30 September 2003.

UKAEA  project  manager  Alastair MacDonald said: "Our preliminary findings were  that  incineration  of  all solvents and oils at Dounreay using a wet abatement  system  scores highest because it does not involve transport, is technically  proven  and  does not require handling of powdered radioactive waste.

"Although  solidification  to  low-level  waste is among the higher scoring options,  it  scores  poorly against the technical risk attribute and would entail   the   transport   of  oils  to  an  off-site  treatment  facility.  Construction of an alkaline hydrolysis plant at Dounreay scores low because of  cost and complexity, while alkaline hydrolysis at Sellafield scores low because  of  transport issues and because oils would need to be transported for treatment at another facility.

"It  is  not our intention to continue with the highest scoring option just because  the  arithmetic shows it is the best. We want to balance this with the   views   and   comments   of   stakeholders   before  making  a  final recommendation.

"The  first step to finding out the views of stakeholders was to ask Galson to  facilitate  two  panels.  One  consisted of stakeholders from the local community,  including  members  of  the  local liaison committee, Caithness Against  Nuclear  Dumping, and the local education authority, and the other was  drawn from a cross-section of people who work at the site but who were not involved in this project.

"The  members  of the panels were able to vary the weightings used to score the  options  and  in  some cases the order of ranking changed. Both panels were  generally  supportive  of  the weightings used in the assessment, and agreed  that  the  options  process  was robust, well thought out, that the impacts had been properly evaluated and the costs understood.

"The  next step is to invite other stakeholders to participate. The panels' findings have been published today along with the summary paper, and I hope this  will  stimulate  more responses from stakeholders who want to help us deliver  the  site  restoration  plan.  The full BPEO document and a simple spreadsheet  that  can  be  used  to  see  how  the  scoring  varies as the weightings are modified can also be accessed via the UKAEA website."

Further Information
Solvents were used to separate uranium and plutonium from waste in the recycling of nuclear fuel at Dounreay. There are 75m3 currently stored at Dounreay.  About 10m3 are expected to be generated during the site restoration work and treated in the same way as the existing stock.

Oils were used in a number of plants at Dounreay and became mildly contaminated with radioactivity. They amount to 70m3.

In February 2002, UKAEA Dounreay launched an ongoing initiative to encourage individuals and organisations to register as stakeholders in the site restoration plan. Anybody can register an interest via the UKAEA website at http://www.ukaea.org.uk/news/dsrp.htm.

Copies of the summary paper, reports of the stakeholder panels and the detailed technical study can be found at http://www.ukaea.org.uk/ dounreay/dsrpnews.htm. Copies of the summary paper are also available in local libraries, and have been issued to stakeholders who have registered an interest in the site restoration plan.