NDA inherited approximately 100 tonnes of specialist reactor fuel from the UK Atomic Energy Authority after nuclear research came to an end and work started to close down the site.
Options for the fuels range from indefinite storage at Dounreay to re-use in nuclear power stations elsewhere. The NDA’s preferred option will be set out in a report later this month.
A final decision on the largest single batch of fuel – 44 tonnes of uranium metal used to breed plutonium at Dounreay in the 1960s and 70s – is expected in September.
Members of the site stakeholder group heard last night the NDA’s preferred option is to remove this fuel from Dounreay and reprocess into a form more suitable for either long term storage or re-use in reactors, depending on the outcome of Government policy reviews.
Alex Anderson, head of fuels at site licence company DSRL, said decommissioning of the Dounreay Fast Reactor had progressed to the stage where decisions needed to be made about what to do with the breeder.
“The fuel is being stored securely while we get on with dismantling the rest of the facilities round about them,” he said.
“Decisions taken now about the future of the fuel will help us plan for what facilities, if any, we need to retain here in the longer term. This will let us refine the timescale and cost for closure of the entire site.
“If the NDA decides the breeder should be returned to national fuel stocks, we anticipate the first batch being ready to leave the site in January next year for reprocessing at Sellafield.
“Its transfer would be carried out by DRS, the NDA’s own transport company and among the most experienced in the world at moving this type of material by train. It routinely takes fuel like this to and from power stations across the UK.
“Breeder makes up just under half the total inventory of fuel inherited by the NDA at Dounreay. Work is continuing with the NDA’s agreement on options for the remainder of the fuels.”
If the NDA proceeds with the proposal, the far north railway line is its preferred route out of Caithness. DRS, the NDA’s rail transport subsidiary, is exploring options for the development of a rail head.