Inside a factory on the outskirts of Bristol, Britain’s newest facility for handling the country’s legacy of plutonium and uranium is being assembled for testing before it is transported for installation in the North of Scotland.
It consists of a series of boxes that will be used to unpack, characterise and repack unirradiated nuclear fuels inherited by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority at Dounreay in 2005 when it took over the site.
The £10 million fabrication contract is bringing together suppliers from across the UK with the engineering skills capable of meeting the exacting standards of the nuclear industry.
The unirradiated fuel characterisation facility is being assembled and tested at Yate, Bristol, before it is dismantled and taken to Dounreay early in 2015.
Dounreay is partway through its decommissioning programme, one of the largest in Europe, and the return of its re-useable fuel inventory to national stocks is a key part of the site closure plan.
The NDA inherited approximately 100 tonnes of nuclear fuel at Dounreay – a legacy of 20th century R & D into more efficient ways to generate electricity from fast breeder reactors.
The UK-owned fuel began to leave the site in 2012 following the Government decision to consolidate the UK’s fuel inventory at Sellafield in Cumbria.
The fuel characterisation facility will process unirradiated material currently stored at Dounreay in various solid forms, in a series of glove boxes which will allow operators to handle the fuel remotely.
Local companies have been involved in the manufacture, construction and assembly of the line, which was designed by AECOM for Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd, the site licence company.
They include JGC Engineering, Gows Lybster, John Gunn & Sons, MM Miller, Nuvia, Jacobs and Arch Henderson & Partners.
The various components of the line have been assembled at the Yate, Bristol premises of main contractor Redhall. Here the full range of the process will be assembled and tested and any remedial work carried out. Once testing has been completed, it will be transported to Dounreay where it will be reassembled,
Commissioning of the line is expected to take a further six months and, subject to regulatory agreement from the Office for Nuclear Regulation, the operation of the line is expected to last for three years.
Nigel Lowe, NDA’s head of programme at Dounreay, said: "The site is being dismantled and is heading towards closure over the coming decades, but the workforce have retained their skills in managing high-tech projects: the UFCF line is testament to this.
“The DSRL team, the supply chain and Redhall can be justly proud of what has been achieved."