UK Atomic Energy Authority seeks companies for clean-up of problematic nuclear plant

The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), announced on 1 August that it is looking for companies to assist in decommissioning the Dounreay reprocessing plant, the site of several scares in recent years.

The most challenging aspect of the entire process is believed to be identifying a way to remove 700 cubic meters of nuclear waste from Dounreay’s Intermediate Level Waste (ILW) shaft and silo, whilst isolating the shaft from the surrounding environment. Such is the scale of the task that current estimates for the removal are put at 20 years.

Current proposals for isolating the shaft include creating an ice wall around it and the formation of an underground concrete wall to prevent water entering the shaft. Current investigations on the geology and groundwater flows around the shaft will enable the most appropriate method to be selected. In the case of the silo, waste will be removed by access through the concrete roof.

A waste treatment plant and an above ground store will also need to be constructed. This will initially be used to treat, package and store wastes from the site’s decommissioning activities and will then handle the shaft and silo materials as they arise.

Dounreay, on Scotland’s northern coast and open since 1955, has been targeted for decommissioning because of several recent health and safety scares: in March the UKAEA was fined £100,000 after three workers were exposed to radiation and since 1997 there has been a ban on fishing within a two-mile radius of the plant due to repeated findings of radioactive particles on local beaches.

Any companies interested in the decommissioning process must tender for the work by 1 October 2000.

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