Great strides are being made at Dounreay to clear away Britain’s experiment with fast reactors, according to Government Minister Baroness Verma.
She made the comments in a foreword to the annual report and accounts of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, the public body that owns Dounreay and funds its clean-up.
“I’m pleased to see the progress being made at Dounreay where, two years into the Cavendish Dounreay Partnership’s (CDP) contract to manage the site, great strides are being made and genuine cost savings achieved,” said Baroness Verma, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
NDA chairman Stephen Henwood said the consortium in charge of site licence company DSRL “is delivering on its promise to accelerate the programme and achieve savings for the taxpayer”.
He added: “There has been a requirement to add some additional scope into the baseline at Dounreay which is requiring increased expenditure. Over the first two years of CDP’s contract; cost and schedule are being held against the original scope.”
Chief executive John Clarke said the NDA had asked DSRL to carry out “significant additional work, associated largely with movements of material to Sellafield for consolidation purposes”.
The additional scope is expected to be worth several hundred million pounds and is being progressively added into the Dounreay programme.
“This work was recognised as likely during the competition, however the exact scope was not sufficiently defined at that time to allow it to be included in priced bids for the site,” he said.
“The implication of the addition of this high priority scope is that the Interim End State date will be extended by a number of years. The SLC and NDA are working with HMG to minimise any impact on value for money arising from these changes.”
Nigel Lowe, NDA Head of Programme at the site, said: “Dounreay has met all of its milestones to date while taking on additional work which was anticipated, but not specified at the time of the competition. As the detail of this new work is refined it will be progressively incorporated into the wider site decommissioning programme.
“The site continues to be a role model for the effective management of technically challenging decommissioning under a target cost contract, and is attracting high levels of interest from both UK and overseas visitors.”
One of the milestones of the past year is the completion of the first two vaults at the new Low Level Waste Facility that will take around 150,000 tonnes of demolition material and other waste, including paper, rags, tools, glass, concrete and clothing as the site moves towards closure. The vaults will also take waste from the neighbouring Vulcan military site.
The shallow engineered vaults are scheduled to begin accepting waste material later this year. Each vault is around the size of a football pitch and 20 metres deep and, once filled and capped, will eventually be covered with earth and landscaped.
Meanwhile, work is proceeding apace on clean-up and demolition of Scotland’s oldest reactor, the Materials Test Reactor. The facility, which opened in 1958 and closed in 1969, was served by a number of ancillary buildings, including a cooling circuit and towers, a fuel pond, post-irradiation examination (PIE) cells, workshops, laboratories, an active handling bay and administrative offices.
Many of these ancillary facilities have now disappeared, with a major milestone achieved last year with clean-up completed at the highly contaminated post-irradiation examination (PIE) cells, or cave. Final demolition of the reactor itself is scheduled for 2015.
Around Dounreay the NDA continues to play a key role supporting projects in conjunction with the Caithness & North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership (CNSRP).
During 2013/2014, the DSRL socio-economic plan was successfully delivered. The CNS fund, established as the community benefit fund associated with the Dounreay LLW facility, completed a successful first year of operation awarding grants to 29 sustainable development initiatives.
In addition, the North Highland Regeneration Fund supported a number of existing and new local businesses through loan funding, helping to create and sustain jobs in Caithness and Sutherland.