The successful clean up and demolition of Dounreay’s plutonium criticality laboratory has been highlighted as a case study in the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency’s (NDA) annual report for 2008/09.
NDA’s acting Chief Executive Richard Waite described it as a “real triumph”, adding that the demolition concluded “nearly a decade of innovative work on a project that was once thought impossible to solve”.
The plutonium criticality laboratory was once considered the dirtiest building at Dounreay.
Code-named D8550, it was one of two experimental laboratories built at Dounreay during the Cold War to address Britain’s need for information which emerged when America refused to share its nuclear technology with its Allies.
When the research programme ended in 1963, the laboratory was left in a heavily-contaminated state and was sealed up and placed under a ‘care and maintenance’ regime until 2000.
A team of decommissioning experts drawn from various contracting companies and managed by DSRL took on the task of cleaning up the facility. The challenges facing them were enormous, but using existing technology borrowed from the aviation industry, they decontaminated the building successfully and with an excellent safety record.
The NDA’s safety director Jim Morse took a special interest in the decommissioning work, and was one of the first visitors to the criticality cell following its clean up.
He also returned to see D8550 in the final stages of demolition in March 2009.
“Yet again, Dounreay has pointed the way in leading the decommissioning industry – their recipe of focused team-work, down-to-earth techniques and can-do attitude sets a benchmark for the NDA sites,” he said.