The Dounreay site poses some longstanding high-security waste problems. Hazardous radioactive acids awaiting cementation are top of the to-do list, but the long wait has had positive aspects. Professionals familiar with nuclear, particularly experimental or reprocessing sites, will know these complex old sites have a variety of challenges as wastes are created by decommissioning and legacy wastes are treated for storage or disposal. Storage facilities deteriorate over time, making progress on waste immobilisation more important. The operational and decommissioning waste streams in the UK nuclear waste inventory show just how complex the task of dealing with legacy wastes is. It is possible to deal with these wastes, but only with the correct funding, impetus and management. The question of whether to treat a waste on site or to transport it elsewhere can often be as much of a political or management decision as a technical or regulatory one. Dounreay, in northern Scotland, is one such decommissioning site with a variety of lower and higher activity solid and liquid waste streams. Dounreay was the UK’s flagship fast reactor development site and was the location for a materials test reactor (MTR), the experimental Dounreay Fast Reactor (DFR), and the larger-scale Prototype Fast Reactor (PFR). There have been successes in waste management in recent times. They include dealing with volatile liquid metal coolant, isolating the site’s underground waste shaft from the environment and dismantling many old plants. Currently work is under way to extract failed fuel elements from the DFR.
Nuclear Engineering International 25th March 2020 read more »