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Technical media visit Dounreay

Technical media visit Dounreay

A group of journalists with a special interest in nuclear decommissioning has visited Dounreay to see at first hand progress being made to clean up and demolish the experimental site.

Media represented on the trip were Physics World, Nuclear Engineering International, The Engineer, Professional Engineering and the BBC.

Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd wants to raise the profile of its achievements to reduce and eliminate the major hazards at the site and opened its doors to journalists from the technical media.

The group were briefed on the long-range closure programme by strategy manager Doug Graham, who has lead the site’s consultation with the public about the condition that Dounreay should be left in once decommissioning is complete.

They were shown round the decommissioning of the Prototype Fast Reactor, including the world’s largest liquid metal destruction plant, by senior decommissioning project manager Billy Husband.

Next up was a walk back in time inside its predecessor, the 1950s Dounreay Fast Reactor. After visiting the historic control room, still preserved from the day it was shut down in 1977, facility manager Andy Swan took the group inside the famous sphere where a new chemical plant is the final stages of commissioning to destroy the liquid metal still inside the reactor.

The group went walkabout at the shaft isolation project with senior project manager John Whitfield. Hundreds of boreholes drilled around the shaft are enabling John and his team to inject grout in the fissures around the shaft and so isolate its contents from the groundwater as a precursor to waste removal.

The final visit saw the group join senior decommissioning project manager Charlie Fowler to step inside a "cell" where scientists carried out ground-breaking experiments on the criticality of plutonium and uranium during the 1950s and early 60s.

Until recently, no-one had been able to step inside the PUMA cell without breathing apparatus but a major clean-up project in recent years has seen much of the facility decontaminated and made safe for demolition later this year once the last rooms have been cleaned out.