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Higher standards of environmental protection and lower levels of radioactive emissions mean the clean-up of Dounreay is being carried out with minimal impact on the environment.  So said Dipesh Shah, chief executive of UKAEA, when he officially opened a 7.5 million plant that is setting new standards for the control and disposal of low-level effluent from the decommissioning of Britain's fast reactor experiment.

The Low Level Liquid Effluent Treatment Plant, which took three years to build, is an important part of UKAEA's strategy to clean up effluent from the site decommissioning before disposal. It replaces a facility dating from the 1950s that is now being phased out of service.

Dounreay Director Norman Harrison with Dipesh Shah Chief Executive of UKAEA

Radioactivity levels in the effluent have reduced substantially since reprocessing ceased in 1996 and UKAEA has applied to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency for new limits that reflect the much smaller levels of disposal needed to decommission the site safely. 

'UKAEA's priority is to decommission Dounreay in a way that safeguards the workforce and public, and which minimises the impact on the environment,'  said Dipesh Shah. 'I'm delighted that one of my first tasks since being appointed chief executive has been to officially open a modern new facility that is a clear demonstration of our commitment to meeting these

Dounreay director Norman Harrison said: 'The commissioning of this new plant is good news for the environment and good news for the local economy.   It enables us to strengthen our environmental performance as we clean up more of the site and demonstrates the capacity of local contractors to meet our demanding requirements for decommissioning skills of the highest order.

'I'm also pleased that we are witnessing a substantial reduction in the amount of radioactivity being disposed of. The proposed new limits, if used to the full, would give the public a maximum potential dose that is one-third of the dose associated with the previous limits. This is 200 times smaller than what we all receive from natural sources of

Tom Ross, who manages the new Low Level Liquid Effluent Treatment Plant, said: 'The modernisation of our effluent treatment system gives us much better control over our impact on the environment and enables us to treat the effluent in a way that we could not before using the old facilities.' 

The main contractor for the construction of the new facility was NNC.   Sub-contractors were JGC Engineering and Technical Services, R.J. Macleod and AMEC (formerly James Scott Electrical).