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NDA bosses see major hazard being destroyed

NDA bosses see major hazard being destroyed

The two men in charge of Britain’s nuclear clean-up programme have seen how one of their biggest hazards is being destroyed at Dounreay.

Nuclear Decommissioning Authority chairman Stephen Henwood and chief executive Ian Roxburgh stepped inside the site’s experimental fast reactor.

Mr Henwood – on his first visit to Scotland’s biggest nuclear site since becoming chair of the NDA last month – was shown the £15 million chemical plant that is gearing up to destroy the liquid metal still inside the fast reactor.

Almost a tonne of volatile sodium-potassium from the primary coolant circuit has been treated and decontaminated during the active commissioning phase.

The alkali metal and its radioactive contamination is one of the biggest hazards of the UK nuclear legacy and its safe destruction is being given high priority by the NDA.

Subject to regulatory agreement to commence full operation, it is expected to take two years to complete the destruction of this hazard.

Mr Henwood and Dr Roxburgh also saw the breeder removal facility being kitted out.

This is a new plant built on the base of the sphere which will receive almost 1000 breeder elements still inside the reactor.

Robotic equipment will be used to dislodge and cut up the elements before they examined and packaged as intermediate-level waste.

Dr Roxburgh said: "Dounreay is a significant site for the NDA, reflecting our commitment to prioritise the higher hazards across our estate.

"We still face many challenges at the site, but it’s pleasing to see the progress that has been made so far and I’m impressed with the continued commitment and hard work put in by DRSL’s employees."

Other stops during their visit included the decommissioning of the Prototype Fast Reactor and continuing clean-out of a 1950s plutonium test centre.