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Dounreay nuclear hazard neutralised

10 April 2012

On April 6, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) announced that the last of 57,000 litres of liquid metal have been removed from the main cooling circuit of the experimental fast breeder reactor at the Dounreay nuclear power station in Caithness, Northern Scotland.

57,000 litres of highly dangerous liquid sodium and potassium from the Dounreay site have been removed and neutralised
57,000 litres of highly dangerous liquid sodium and potassium from the Dounreay site have been removed and neutralised

The liquid metal, which was used as a coolant, was a major chemical and radiological hazard. The Dounreay reactor, which was constructed in the 1950s, was one of only two ever built in Britain to run on liquid metal.

In September 2007, the first of a total of 354 batches of the liquid metal - an alloy of sodium and potassium - was lifted from the reactor's primary circuit. Each batch then underwent a chemical neutralisation process. The work has now been completed a year ahead of schedule.

Nigel Lowe, head of the NDA's Dounreay programme, said: "This was very high on the list of hazards we wanted reduced across our whole estate. It's a significant achievement for Dounreay and joins a long list of examples whereby the site has delivered on key objectives and technical challenges."

Andy Swan, the engineer in charge of the reactor decommissioning, said: "This stuff was highly volatile and highly radioactive. The chemical and radiological hazards combined to make this a real danger to the workers involved, so we needed to be certain they were protected at every step of the process until the hazard was destroyed. Their safety record throughout this operation was excellent."




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