Planning consent for Dounreay waste facilities

14 May 2009

Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd (DSRL) has received planning permission for low- and intermediate-level waste (LLW/ILW) treatment facilities at the Dounreay site in Scotland, UK, which is undergoing decommissioning.

Dounreay ILW facility (DSRL)
Artist's impression of the new ILW facility (Image: DSRL)
The new facilities - two of the biggest construction projects needed to complete the site clean-up - will treat LLW/ILW from the remainder of the site closure programme. The facilities will cost over £300 million ($450 million) to construct and will have a combined capacity of almost 200,000 cubic metres of waste.
Solid and liquid ILW will be processed in a new treatment plant known as D3900, where it will be mixed with cement and set inside 500-litre drums and 3-cubic metre steel boxes. Once set, the containers will be moved to an adjoining storage area. This store will have a design life of 100 years, so will remain in place beyond 2025, pending a national policy for the management of this waste.
Highland Council granted outline consent for the new ILW facility in January 2007. Detailed plans were lodged with the local authority in February 2009 and conditional approval has now been received. Construction is scheduled for 2010-13.
LLW from the site decommissioning is being stockpiled until a route is opened for its disposal. Following public consultation on the options, the site chose an area of land adjacent to Dounreay for a series of disposal vaults and applied for planning permission in 2006.
That application was approved by Highland Council in January 2009 and forwarded to the Scottish government for consideration. Ministers decided not to call in the application but asked the local planning authority to include an extra condition about the establishment of a community benefit fund.
The council endorsed this in April and DSRL has now received formal notification that consent has been granted.
Construction of the disposal site is due to begin in 2011, with the first of the vaults ready to receive waste in 2014. When the UK's experiment with fast reactors has been cleared in 2025, the vaults will be sealed and the surface restored. The facility will be used for the disposal of up to a maximum of 175,000 cubic metres of solid LLW which is expected to be generated during the decommissioning of the site, in addition to waste that will be retrieved from a series of historical LLW pits at the site.
Ron Crawford, planning manager at DSRL, commented: "The low-level waste application in particular broke new ground in terms of planning process, scientific assessment, political tests, regulatory practice and, not least, some demanding stakeholder and community issues."
Tony Trayner, head of construction at DSRL, said, "The planning consents keep our clean-up programme on course for completion in 2025." He added, "An essential element of any decommissioning project is being able to deal with the radioactive waste that it generates and these new facilities will give us that capacity through to the end of our programme."
Dounreay was the UK's centre for experimental fast breeder research and development from 1954 until 1994. The Dounreay decommissioning program is expected to cost an estimated £2.5 billion ($5 billion) and will involve the gradual dismantling and removal of plant and facilities on site over the next 20 years.
DSRL was established on 1 April 2008 as part of the restructuring of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA). Work prior to this date was conducted by the UKAEA.