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TREATMENT PLANT TO CLEAN UP EFFLUENT FROM REACTOR DECOMMISSIONING 29 April 03
The UK Atomic Energy Authority has applied for planning permission to construct a new plant to clean up radioactive effluent that will arise during the next phase of decommissioning the Prototype Fast Reactor at Dounreay.
The £2.4 million project will remove radioactivity from the effluent before it is discharged to the sea. Since the reactor closed in 1994, the fuel has been removed and a £17 million plant built to destroy the 1500 tonnes of sodium liquid metal used as coolant.
The next stages in decommissioning include steam cleaning of components and facilities that are coated with traces of sodium. This will generate liquors containing radioactive caesium-137 and cobalt-60 that will be cleaned up before being discharged to sea.
UKAEA is seeking planning consent to build a new plant containing an ion exchange column to clean up the liquors. A special resin in the ion exchange column will trap radioactivity as the effluent flows through it. A contract has been let to Prague University to optimise the design of the column and so ensure the highest practicable standards of environmental protection. The radioactivity trapped in the resin will be stored on site.
UKAEA project manager Mick Moore said: "More than four decades of nuclear research and development have left a legacy of facilities that we need to dismantle safely and in a way that protects the environment. Subject to planning and regulatory consent, the new plant will be good news for the environment because it means we will be able to clean up the effluent before it is discharged. It is also good for the local economy because the construction phase will create jobs and opportunities for businesses."
The Prototype Fast Reactor operated from 1974 until 1994, and was one of three reactors built and operated at Dounreay when it was Britain's centre for fast reactor research and development.
Decommissioning of Dounreay is expected to take 50-60 years to complete and cost in the region of £4 billion. Published in October 2000, the Dounreay Site Restoration Plan can be viewed at www.ukaea.org.uk
UKAEA is currently spending £140-150 million a year on decommissioning Dounreay. This is worth approximately £75 million a year to the economy of the Highlands.