Nuclear plant will take 50 years to dismantle

A A A

At least 50 years will be spent closing down the Dounreay nuclear plant on the north coast of Scotland, at an estimated cost of £4bn to the taxpayer, the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) said yesterday.

At least 50 years will be spent closing down the Dounreay nuclear plant on the north coast of Scotland, at an estimated cost of £4bn to the taxpayer, the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) said yesterday.

Even if all goes to plan, and the three reactors at the Caithness facility are safely dismantled with all high-level radioactive waste removed, parts of the site will need monitoring for a further 300 years.

Removing the radioactive debris in a 200ft waste shaft, which exploded in 1977, will alone take up to 25 years, at a cost of more than £300m.

"Decommissioning Dounreay will be a challenging task. It will take many decades to complete, and will require the long-term commitment of significant public resources," the UKAEA stated in its Dounreay site restoration plan, published yesterday.

The programme is split into five phases, during which the site will be progressively dismantled and returned to the nearest the nuclear industry can hope to get to greenfield conditions. The reactor building's dome will be left as a monument. The plan will start with an intense building programme to deal with the vast amount of nuclear waste generated by the decommissioning.

All main hazards are expected to be rendered safe within 25 years of the start of the dismantling operation. This includes the decommissioning of the materials test reactor, the prototype fast reactor and the larger Dounreay fast reactor.

An unresolved issue is what to do with the plutonium-containing fuel of the prototype fast reactor. The Department of Trade and Industry has to decide on which of three options to pursue. These are:

* Reprocessing the fuel at Dounreay, bitterly opposed by environmental organisations;

* A hybrid strategy of reprocessing the unirradiated and less dangerous fuel at Dounreay, leaving the irradiated fuel to be reprocessed at the Sellafield plant in Cumbria;

* A treatment strategy where the fuel is made safe for storage at Dounreay until a national nuclear waste repository is built by the Government.

Dounreay's history began with an experimental reactor being built in 1954, but its success rested on "fast reactor" technology, which was considered the future of nuclear power 30 years ago.

The Dounreay fast reactor was built in 1962 and anotherfast reactor begun in 1975, only to be shut down in 1994 when the Government abandoned fast reactor technology. After the chemical explosion in the waste shaft, which blew its lid off, Dounreay was hit by a succession of safety scares, including concerns about a missing amount of enriched uranium, which had been "lost" in the system.

In 1998, it was announced that Dounreay would be closed, for economic and scientific reasons. Soon after, the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate made a total of 143 recommendations to safeguard the site. It was in response to these recommendations that the new management of the plant prepared yesterday's plan.

The UKAEA said that to achieve the decommissioning of Dounreay it would be necessary to generate radioactive discharges into the environment.

Kevin Dunion, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: "For every one year that the Dounreay nuclear reactor operated, it is to take two years to clean up the mess. Over 100 years of activity and billions of pounds of public money will have been squandered propping up this nuclear white elephant."

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
Sport
footballMan City manager would have loved to have signed Argentine
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site on Friday

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
News
i100
Sport
Enner Valencia
footballStriker has enjoyed a rapid rise to fame via winning the title with ‘The Blue Ballet’ in Ecuador
Arts and Entertainment
A top literary agent has compared online giant Amazon to Isis
arts + entsAndrew Wylie has pulled no punches in criticism of Amazon
Arts and Entertainment
Charlie Sheen said he would
tv

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities