Energy Decomissioning


Dounreay in Caithness is recognised internationally as one of the most complex nuclear clean-up challenges in Europe. The facility, on Scotland’s north coast, led the world in fast reactor research and development from 1955 to 1994 and is now Europe’s largest nuclear clean-up and demolition project.

The site operator directly employs around 850 people, with a similar number working for on-site contractors. Decommissioning Dounreay represents ten per cent of the Caithness and North Sutherland workforce and gives the area unrivalled expertise in a very specialised field.

Dounreay was Britain's former centre of fast reactor research and development. It was where some of the nation’s leading scientists and engineers experimented with plutonium, uranium and other metals to give Britain the knowledge to generate electricity using new types of nuclear reactor.

This research and development was completed a number of years ago and the environment is being restored by a new generation of staff skilled in nuclear clean-up.

The Scottish Government has a clear policy to not build any new nuclear power stations in Scotland. Today, Dounreay is a site of construction, demolition and waste management, all of it designed to return the site to as close as possible to its original condition.

The experimental nature of many of its redundant facilities means the clean-up and demolition requires innovation as well as great care.
Dounreay Site Restoration Limited is the site operating company licensed by site owners the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to deliver the decommissioning and restoration of the site, and their aim is to become the benchmark in Europe for successful decommissioning of a complex nuclear site.

Approximately 180 facilities were built at the site. Some are very straightforward to dismantle. Others require great care because of chemical or radiological hazards. About 50 facilities have a history that involved the presence of radioactive materials and special controls are in place around these to manage radiation hazards.

Decommissioning will be complete when all redundant facilities have been demolished and wastes made safe for long-term storage or disposal. Decommissioning of Dounreay is planned to bring the site to an interim care and surveillance state by 2036, and as a brownfield site by 2336, at a total cost of £2.9 billion.

The work required to complete the site closure by 2022-25 is mapped out in the site operators ‘Lifetime Plan’. This document contains some 14,000 pieces of work and forms the basis for funding from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.
Decommissioning redundant facilities involves:

•    Assessing the hazards and developing plans to protect workers carrying out the work
•    Removal of hazards
•    Demolition
•    Segregation and management of different wastes

Key to successful decommissioning is careful planning and risk assessment. This is designed to keep to a minimum the exposure of workers to radiological and other hazards and minimise the impact on the environment.

In some facilities radiation levels may be too high for workers, so robotic equipment is used until the levels are low enough for safe entry. Protective equipment worn by workers entering these areas can include air-line suits and respirators.
Decommissioning generates different types of waste, from conventional industrial wastes to hazardous materials such as asbestos and radioactive materials. Waste which cannot be recycled is segregated and processed at site for storage or disposal.

Fan room decommissioning, Dounreay.


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