Dounreay radioactive waste plan

Dounreay’s decommissioning contractor sets out what will happen to an estimated 300,000 tonnes of radioactive  material from the clean-out and closure of the former nuclear research site.

More than 99 per cent is expected to remain indefinitely at Dounreay. A small amount of foreign radioactive waste and a stock of nuclear fuel inherited by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is earmarked for removal.

The plan is set out in a new leaflet, Radioactive Materials at Dounreay, published by Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd, the site closure contractor to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

“We’re 10 years into the decommissioning of the site. We’ve transported foreign fuel over the last 10 years, we’re ready now to return the foreign waste and next year we’ll be ready to start removal of the UK fuel,” explained Alex Anderson, head of waste and fuels at DSRL.

“We’re delivering the NDA’s mission to close down the site and we’re honouring the government’s pledge to send back foreign waste.

“Of the 300,000 tonnes of radioactive material we need to manage as part of the closure of the site, it is a relatively small amount – a fraction of one per cent – that is earmarked to leave the site. The leaflet published today explains the reasons for this, its safety and the importance of security wherever nuclear materials are involved.”

Demolishing the site is expected to yield some 300,000 tonnes of radioactive material.

A few hundred tonnes that belong elsewhere is earmarked for removal. This includes the return of waste to customers of the former UKAEA Fuel Services business who sent their overseas fuel to Dounreay for reprocessing in the 1990s, and the return to UK national stocks of plutonium and uranium that could be used again to generate electricity.

The storage of foreign waste is limited to a maximum of 25 years, in accordance with UK Government policy about the return of waste.

The exact amount of foreign waste to be returned will depend on the outcome of a recent consultation by the Scottish and UK governments on “waste substitution”. This would allow former UKAEA customers to exchange their waste at Dounreay for an equivalent amount from a different stock held by the NDA.

The foreign waste at Dounreay includes 153 tonnes from the reprocessing of fuel for a research reactor at Mol, Belgium that produces isotopes for nuclear medicine across Europe.

The Belgians have not requested substitution, so DSRL obtained clearance from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency under EU regulations to enable the Belgians to collect their waste.

The waste, in a cement form, is contained in 500-litre steel drums. The first transport by sea is scheduled to commence in autumn 2011.

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