Caithness skyline to change forever

The cleanup of the Dounreay nuclear reactor has now entered its final phase. It has been Europe’s most complex decommissioning project, and it’s just about to change the skyline above Dounreay by removing the white sphere that sits on the landscape like a gigantic golf ball. It houses the fast breeder reactor, which will begin to be dismantled in 2018.

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The last stage of decommissioning begins

The company managing the decommissioning work, Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd., has just applied for planning permission for the last stage of the work. The aim of the remediation at the site will be to leave the landscape looking like it did before the power station was built in the 1950s. It is strange to think of such a huge project disappearing within the space of 70 years.

It will take eight years to remove the “golf ball” because of the complexity of the work involved in dismantling the reactor inside it. The shaft and silo will also be decommissioned, low-level waste pits will be dealt with, and a new “flask” facility will be added. Finally, there’s waste removal and the demolition of the remaining buildings. All that will remain will be a security building and some utility services and infrastructure to service the facilities.

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Remediaton and restoration stages

At this stage, land remediation and landscaping can start. The Guide to Closure outlines the approach to remediation of the site. Each part of the site requiring remediation will get a remediation action plan. The goal will be to remove any contaminants from the infrastructure, ground and sub-surface structures so that the remaining levels are as prescribed in the plans.

During remediation, the operations will be checked to assess whether they are taking place as planned or if adjustments are needed. The adjustments might involve increasing or decreasing excavation, for example. The last step in the remediation process will involve backfilling the excavations that have taken place. Even here, a specification is required so that the backfill materials are agreed to present no future danger.

Work on the site then moves to a stage called Restoration. This will involve soft landscaping and contouring. The land that has been disturbed will be given a top soil layer and then reseeded with native vegetation so it merges in with the local environment.

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