Dounreay waste retrieval deal

20 May 2013

UK-based engineering company James Fisher Nuclear (JFN) has won a £5 million ($7.6 million) contract for the retrieval and processing of radioactive waste from a 65-metre deep shaft and a wet silo at the Dounreay site.

Waste in Dounreay silo (DSRL)_460
Inside the silo: radioactive wastes from all aspects of over two decades of site operations were deposited through the ports in the silo's roof (Image: DSRL/NDA)

Under the contract, described by the company as "the world's deepest nuclear clean-up job", JFN will supply a suite of remote handling equipment over a two-year period. The main mechanism for retrieval will be a hydraulic grab deployed from an electric overhead travelling crane located in a new facility above the silo. To support the project, JFN will construct a "significant" test facility at its site in Cumbria in north-western England to carry out inactive testing and operator training, before delivering the equipment to Dounreay in northernmost Scotland.

The emptying and closure of the two Dounreay waste facilities is one of the most important and challenging tasks in the decommissioning of the site, which was home to the UK's fast reactor research efforts from the 1950s until the early 1990s. Unconditioned intermediate level waste (ILW) from operations at Dounreay was disposed of in the unlined shaft from 1958 until 1977. From 1971, the concrete-lined silo was used for routine disposal of ILW at the site, with the shaft used only for items too large for the silo.

The last disposal to the silo was made in 1998, after which the UK government announced a decision to empty both the shaft and silo. Since 2012, responsibility for decommissioning the Dounreay site has rested with the Babcock Dounreay Partnership consortium, after it took ownership of Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd (DSRL). The use of proven, commercially available off-the-shelf equipment wherever possible is a feature of the decommissioning team's approach.

According to JFN, the deal is potentially the first of a number of contracts relating to the decommissioning of the high-hazard Dounreay facilities. JFN has provided remote handling systems at Sellafield and UK Magnox sites but managing director Paul Read said the contract represented a "first" for the deployment of the company's capability at Dounreay. "Our specialised remote handling skills are directly applicable to the challenges that the Dounreay site faces. We're keen to get started," he said.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News