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New vaults signal start of waste clearance

New vaults signal start of waste clearance

The clearance of tens of thousands of tonnes of radioactive waste from the redundant nuclear site at Dounreay today moved a step closer.

Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd announced the formal award of a contract to develop a disposal site for low-level waste from the decommissioning and closure of the site.

GRAHAM Construction will build the first two of up to six underground vaults capable of taking up 175,000m3 of radioactive debris from the clean-out and demolition of Britain’s 20th century experiment with fast breeder reactors.

Low level waste accounts for more than 80 per cent by volume of the radioactive waste that will be produced during demolition of the site, but less than 0.01 per cent by radioactivity.

Since decommissioning started over a decade ago, approximately 11,500m3 of low-level waste has been processed and accumulated on the site.

The scheduled opening of the first vault in 2013, subject to regulatory and other consents, will herald the beginning of waste clearance from the site.

The disposal site is located adjacent to the redundant nuclear site on land owned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority

GRAHAM is expected to move its team into position in September and start ground excavation in October.

Approximately 140,000 metres of rock will be removed to make way for each vault.

Some of the rock from later phases will be crushed and recycled as aggregate to landscape the flattened nuclear plant, reducing the total bill for site restoration by several million pounds.

Some 8000 tonnes of aggregate made from the crushed rubble of buildings already razed is being used to build the roads and hardstanding areas at the new waste disposal site.

DSRL project manager Audrey Cooper said: “We’re aggressively reducing the amount of waste we generate in the first place through new, more efficient ways to decommission and better ways to segregate and reduce the volume of contaminated waste. We expect this to reduce the total size of the facility we will need to build and bring down the cost to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority even further.”

GRAHAM’s contract is for the first phase of the project – the design and construction of two vaults – and is valued at approximately £13 million.

Leo Martin, Director at GRAHAM, said: “The contract to design and build the new low level waste disposal facility at Dounreay is an important one for GRAHAM and it is our firm intention that the delivery of this project makes a positive contribution to the Caithness economy.

“We are therefore actively seeking to foster local involvement and enterprise through the use of local labour, equipment and materials and will aim to utilise the skills and experience of local small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) wherever possible.

“We will be working hard with DSRL over the coming months on the design of the facilities and aim to commence on site this autumn."

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is investing £4 million in a community benefit fund attached to the development. The first payment of £1 million is due when construction starts in October.