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Caithness News Bulletins September 2003

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Dounreay News      


Scotland's  first  operational  nuclear  reactor  is one step away from its complete decommissioning.

The  penultimate  stage  of  decommissioning  the  Dounreay  Materials Test Reactor  (DMTR)  has  been  completed,  leaving the reactor block ready for demolition  following a period of passive care and maintenance to allow for further radioactive decay.  DMTR was one of three reactors built and operated at UKAEA Dounreay between 1958 and 1994.  All three reactors are now in their decommissioning stages.

DMTR,  which  went critical in May 1958, was designed to test how different materials  performed  when  irradiated. Scientists and engineers working on the  fast  reactor  experiment at Dounreay used this information to develop safely the new type of reactor.

The  25  MW test reactor was shut down in May 1969 and its uranium fuel and heavy  water  coolant removed by 1971. It was placed in a state of care and maintenance  until  1996,  when a decommissioning team began to prepare for the  second  stage  of  decommissioning  the  removal  of  the redundant equipment from the containment building.

This  work  has now been completed, enabling the UK Atomic Energy Authority to  place  the reactor structure in a state of passive care and maintenance pending  its  ultimate demolition during a later phase of the Dounreay Site Restoration  Plan.  The  main  contractors  for  the  penultimate  stage of decommissioning were Mitsui Babcock and Nicolson Engineering.

UKAEA Dounreay director Peter Welsh said: "DMTR played an important part in the  history of the fast reactor experiment at Dounreay. Our task now is to consign the reactor to history in a way that protects the environment, so I am  pleased  that we have now safely completed the penultimate stage of its decommissioning  and  delivered  another  of the milestones in the Dounreay Site Restoration Plan."

Expenditure on decommissioning and site restoration work at Dounreay is 140-150 million a year. This is worth approximately 75 million a year to the economy of the Highlands.