Dounreay entered into contracts in the early 1990s with overseas customers to recycle their spent fuel. This work ceased following a breakdown in one of the chemical plants in 1996.
All contracts required the waste generated during reprocessing to be returned to the customer, along with the recovered nuclear material. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority inherited these contracts from the UK Atomic Energy Authority, the former site operator, in 2005.
The total amount of waste arising from these old commercial contracts at Dounreay is about two per cent of the total amount of waste that needs to be managed as part of the clean-up and demolition of the site.
Concluding these historical contracts is a small but important part of the overall site closure programme. None of the foreign waste has been returned so far.
One of the customers has asked NDA to return their waste in a glass mix, known as vitrified waste, instead of the cement used at Dounreay. Dounreay does not work with glass but another NDA site, Sellafield in Cumbria, does produce vitrified waste.
This proposal to mix and match different types of waste of equivalent radioactivity is known as “waste substitution”. Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd understands the Scottish Government intends to consult the public on the acceptability of waste substitution.
As the site clean-up contractor to the NDA, DSRL will work with customers, regulators and other stakeholders to implement whatever terms are deemed to be acceptable to conclude these historical contracts as part of the closure of the site.
For more information about Dounreay’s legacy of overseas fuel contracts, click here.