Another building comes down as preliminary work to decommission Dounreay’s historic waste pits gets underway.
Back in the 1950s when Dounreay was a newly-created nuclear reactor research site, UKAEA was granted a licence to bury low level radioactive waste in landfill pits close to the coast. This made Dounreay the only site in Britain with its own disposal facility for low level waste.
Six shallow pits were excavated and were used routinely to dispose of low level solid waste. One of the pits was also used to dispose of asbestos.
Fast forward to 2009 and the pits are about to be covered with a waterproof coating to reduce the amount of water percolating through, before they are eventually decommissioned.
The first stage is to remove the buildings that straddle pits 3 and 4. These are large agricultural-style steel structures clad with composite metal sheeting.
Robbie Manson is DSRL’s project manager responsible for dismantling the buildings.
“The buildings were initially erected in the early 1990s to handle a large volume of waste drums which had to be protected from the weather while they were repacked and deposited in the pits.” he explained.
Dismantling has started with the larger of the two buildings, as workers strip away the guttering and metal sheeting.
The 120 tons of steelworks, classed as exempt waste, will be recycled to produce cost efficiencies for the project.
Once the waterproofing is complete, a network of pumps will keep the water level in the pits to a minimum, with the water being disposed of through the site’s low active drain.
The DSRL decommissioning team have appointed local contractor Jacobs to carry out an inventory of the pits and option studies over the next few years to finalise the way forward.
The emptying of the pits is currently scheduled to begin in mid 2016.