New Dounreay team aims to knock £1bn off site clean-up bill
A NEW consortium to spearhead the demolition and clean-up of the Dounreay nuclear plant in Caithness is planning to complete the mammoth scheme up to 16 years ahead of schedule and at a saving of more than £1 billion to the taxpayer.
The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) announced on Monday that responsibility for the decommissioning scheme at the former fast reactor site had been transferred to a specially-created private sector consortium of American and British companies, known as the Babcock Dounreay Partnership.
The partnership, a joint venture between Babcock, CH2M Hill and URS, will now take control of Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd (DSRL) to begin the final stages of the clean-up operation, including the removal of the site’s landmark dome.
Stephen Henwood, the chairman of the NDA, said the contract had accelerated the date for completing the project from 2038 to 2022, as well as reducing the cost of cleaning up Britain’s second-largest civil nuclear site by more than £1bn from previous estimates.
The handover was welcomed by Scottish and UK government ministers.
Michael Moore, the Secretary of State for Scotland, said: “Today marks an important milestone and I wish the new consortium well.”
Scottish environment secretary Richard Lochhead said: “Today’s announcement is good news as it will allow Dounreay to enter its final decommissioning phase. It also provides investment in the local area which will secure jobs for many skilled workers.”
The redundant nuclear site consists of three nuclear reactors, fuel reprocessing plants, laboratories and various waste facilities – a legacy of the site’s 20th century role as Britain’s centre of fast reactor research and development.
The first Dounreay site restoration plan, published in 2000, projected the clean-up taking until 2063 to complete at a cost of £4bn. By 2005, when the NDA was established, the target had been reduced to 2036 and £2.7bn.
Two years ago, when the NDA launched a competition to find a contractor to take over the final phase of decommissioning, the authority stipulated that bids should accelerate the closure date by at least six years while reducing costs by at least £500 million.
Roger Hardy, a senior Babcock executive who becomes managing director of DSRL, said: “We want to establish Dounreay as the European reference site for nuclear decommissioning and site closure. Babcock, CH2M Hill and URS bring international know-how and proven technologies new to the UK to one of the world’s most demanding clean-up and closure jobs. We will reduce the cost to the UK government of closing down this site through proven innovation, not just by doing the same thing better.”
At the end of the contract, a landscaped low-level waste store would remain at Dounreay. Heavily-shielded sheds containing about 20,000 tonnes of more highly radioactive waste would also remain. About 100 tonnes of fuel still at the site is expected to be moved to Sellafield in Cumbria for reprocessing.
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