Burying waste with Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd

Dounreay Low Level

An exciting project will see the safe disposal of 175,000 cubic metres of low-level radioactive waste. 

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is investing £100 million to clear the redundant Dounreay site of the potentially harmful waste. It is the first facility of its type to be built in Scotland since the 1950s and is the first ever to be granted planning permission.

Stewart Henderson, Senior Project Manager at Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd, said:

“Cleaning out and knocking down a redundant site like Dounreay generates significant quantities of radioactive waste. This facility provides us with a safe disposal site for much of that waste.

“It is the culmination of a decade of work to identify the best option for looking after this type of waste and obtain the necessary planning consents.

“Nuclear decommissioning worldwide is a huge potential market for British expertise. The profile of this project provides UK companies with a platform to showcase how sound engineering combined with competitive pricing is delivering real benefits for nuclear cleanup in this country.”

Construction works will include the creation of a series of underground concrete vaults that will receive up to 240,000 tonnes of low-level radioactive waste from the demolition of the site.

Dounreay Low Level

Each vault is 20 metres deep and covers an area the size of a football pitch. An agricultural-style building will be constructed over each vault to provide cover during the operation, before each is backfilled with grout and sealed.

Subject to regulatory consent, the first boxes of waste will be moved into the vaults in 2014. The last disposals are expected to occur within the next decade. Following capping, the waste will be monitored for up to 300 years, by which time 95 percent of the radioactivity will have decayed.

Nigel Lowe, NDA’s Director for Dounreay, said:

“Dounreay was at the forefront of the country’s reactor programme when it was first built. Today, as the site opens a new chapter in its history, it is again at the forefront – as exemplified by this low-level waste construction project.

“This facility will ensure the material is safely and securely looked after well into the future, utilising modern standards and technologies.”

Low-level waste typically consists of debris such as metal, plastics and rags that have been contaminated during the clean-out and demolition of facilities where radioactive materials have been handled. Although it represents 80 percent of all of the radioactive waste generated by Dounreay’s demolition, it represents less than 0.001 percent of the radiological hazard material.

Main Contractor for the project is GRAHAM Construction.

Leo Martin, Director of GRAHAM, said:

“The decommissioning of Dounreay is a massive undertaking and we are tremendously proud to be playing our part in making it safe for future generations.

“GRAHAM has gained a wealth of civil engineering experience during its long history and we will be bringing all of this knowledge to bear on this project to construct the underground vaults at Dounreay.

“We look forward to delivering this project in a way which benefits both the client and the local community.”

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