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11 May 2005
UKAEA is proposing to build additional storage space at Dounreay for solid low-level radioactive waste pending the availability of a new disposal facility at the site.

Extensive consultation carried out by UKAEA recently identified the construction of a new disposal facility at Dounreay as the Best Practicable Environmental Option for managing low-level waste from the site clean-up.

With any new disposal facility unlikely to be available until 2011 at the earliest, and current storage space due to reach capacity in 2006, UKAEA is seeking agreement from regulators and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to extend the existing store.

UKAEA obtained planning consent in 2001 for a store extension but the project was shelved while UKAEA pursued an option to use the national low-level waste disposal facility at Drigg instead. Following the decision on 10th May 2005 by the Scottish Executive to rule out that option, UKAEA will now seek to develop additional storage space to ensure the site decommissioning programme continues unaffected.

Dounreay director Norman Harrison said: “The option of opening up a disposal route to Drigg dates back to the 1998 Safety Audit carried out by regulators, when the climate surrounding Dounreay was very different. There was an understandable desire at that time to avoid any unnecessary accumulation of radioactive waste, particularly in the absence of a long-term strategy.

“Dounreay today is a very different place. Major investment means the site is in a much stronger position. We have worked tirelessly to rebuild the confidence of stakeholders. And we now have in place a strategy for low-level waste that follows extensive public participation in the options.

“The decision by the Scottish Executive brings clarity to this issue and I welcome that. It enables us to concentrate on managing Dounreay’s low-level waste at Dounreay, which is what our stakeholders told us they wanted us to do. I’m confident we will get the support of the NDA and the regulators to deliver that.”

Historically, when Dounreay was an experimental reactor establishment, approximately 33,000 cubic metres of solid low-level radioactive waste (equivalent in volume to 240 double-decker buses) was disposed of to a series of shallow pits. These pits are now full.

Decommissioning of Dounreay is expected to generate between 64,000 cubic metres and 109,000 cubic metres of new solid low level radioactive waste (packaged volumes, which is equivalent in volume to between 450 and 750 double-decker buses.

In Spring 2002, in accordance with the 1998 Safety Audit by regulators, UKAEA applied to SEPA for consent to dispose of some LLW arisings to Drigg as an interim measure pending agreement and implementation of a long-term strategy.

In March 2005, following extensive public participation in the options, UKAEA concluded that the Best Practicable Environmental Option for Dounreay’s LLW was the construction of a new disposal facility at Dounreay. More information about low-level waste at Dounreay, the views of stakeholders and UKAEA’s strategy can be found at http://www.ukaea.org.uk/dounreay/low_level_waste.htm