Safe destruction of over 20,000 litres of the liquid metal left over from the UK’s first fast reactor experiment is a milestone several weeks ahead of schedule that the Dounreay Fast Reactor decommissioning team can be very proud of.
DFR was the first fast reactor in the world to provide electricity to a national grid. Work to dismantle the fifty year old plant is well underway as 125 batches of the radiologically contaminated liquid metal coolant (NaK) have been removed from the reactor six weeks ahead of the initial timescale and processed in the £15m purpose built destruction plant.
The toxic waste within Dounreay’s renowned ‘dome of discovery’ contributes to a large percentage of the site’s total hazard and its removal is a crucial part of the site decommissioning programme being undertaken on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.
There are approximately 37 of the 57 tonnes remaining inside the reactor which are heavily soiled with radioactive caesium from the fuel used in the core and its destruction is one of the national priorities of the UK Government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change.
Andy Swan, the plant’s senior facility manager, explained: “Decommissioning DFR is one of the most significant nuclear challenges in the UK today. The safe removal of the NaK from such an old reactor is a difficult and dangerous process and achieving our performance initiatives ahead of schedule is a huge credit to the commitment of everyone involved.”
The destruction plant is on target to destroy all 57 tonnes by 2013. This will uncover the breeder elements and enable the breeder removal to commence, which will be handled in the newly constructed containment building adjacent to DFR.