THE DOUNREAY SITE, located on the windswept north coast of Scotland, is the United Kingdom's former center for fast reactor research and development. In the late 1990s, the U.K. government decided that Dounreay had served its purpose and should close. Since then, the site has been in the decommissioning and closure phase.
By the end of the 1990s, the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), which then owned and operated Dounreay, had devised a plan to decommission andclose the site by 2060. In 2007, however, the ownership of the site was taken over by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), which has since put forward much more ambitious plans for closing the site.
Under the NDA's closure program, all redundantfacilities at the Dounreay site will have been cleaned out and demolished by 2025. Some packaged intermediate-level wastes consigned for disposal or long-term storage, however, will remain on site in secure, above ground storage until the authorities in Scotland choose a final route for its disposal.
Regarding any remaining contaminated ground, the intention is to allow it to decay in situ. This means that parts of the site will remain off limits to the public until about 2300, when the radioactive material will have decayed to background levels.
Another structure that will remain is the steel sphere that originally housed the site's first fast reactor.While a decision on its future has not yet been made, one option is to name the sphere a heritage site and leave it in place. To achieve the 2025 target, a considerable investment is being made, including the development of a wide range of robotic and remote systems to assist with the inspection and cleanup of the various facilities at the site.
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