Dounreay’s Prototype Fast Reactor was the second and last fast reactor to be built in the UK. It operated for twenty years until 1994 and had the dual role of providing power to the national grid and offering unique research and development facilities.
When the PFR mission was completed and the UK fast reactor programme was shelved, PFR was de-fuelled and achieved a nuclear clean-up world-record for the destruction of its 1,500 tonnes of sodium liquid metal that once flowed through the bowels of the reactor.
The radioactive components left over from the reactor are safely stored in water which provides shielding from the radiation.
Work has now started to remove this material using a remote handling machine known as a transporter. This is the first time components of the reactor sub-assembly have been removed since reprocessing ended over ten years ago,
This will lead to a further crucial milestone for the shutdown of the Dounreay site as one third of the hazardous material left over from the historic reactor experiment is dealt with in a safe and controlled environment and placed into 200L stainless steel drums ready for long-term waste storage.
DSRL’s senior project manager Alex Potts, said: ‘This phase of work is a key chapter in the site’s decommissioning programme on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, as a significant potential hazard from the PFR experiment is treated and prepared for dry storage.’