Dounreay research station under decommissioning

The UK government started construction of the Dounreay research station near Thurso in Caithness in 1955 to undertake a major research programme on fast reactor technology (Fig 17.1). The programme was stopped in the mid-1990s as it was considered that fast reactors were not needed in the foreseeable future. The research station was operated by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) until 2005 when it was taken into ownership by NDA and is currently managed under contract by Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd (DSRL) a wholly-owned subsidiary of Babcock Dounreay Partnership. The area of the licensed site is 57 ha situ­ated within 547 ha of NDA-owned land.

During the 50 years of operations, three large nuclear reactors were built, two fast reactors and a materials research reactor. Each had associated industrial size fuel research and inspection facilities, associated fuel reproc­essing facilities and RAW management facilities (Dounreay, 2012). Both fast reactors also had their own steam generating plant of unique designs that drove a conventional electricity generating plant. The scale of the installations can be seen in Fig. 17.2.

Owing to the wide range of research and the goal of demonstrating the complete fast reactor fuel cycle, which was achieved in the early 1980s, Dounreay has the widest range of radioactive wastes and facilities to manage and the most complex decommissioning challenges of any nuclear site in Scotland. In a UK context, only Sellafield in England has a more hazardous and complex RAW and decommissioning programme.

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