Dounreay Exotics Consolidation Programme

In 2013 we concluded the development of our strategy to remove unirradiated nuclear material from Dounreay and consolidate it at Sellafield. This avoided the cost of securely managing the material at Dounreay and will enable that site to progress towards its end state; it also makes best use of the skills, capabilities and facilities at Sellafield as a single centre of excellence for the treatment and management of plutonium.

This was a collaborative programme, led by the NDA, which brought together licensees at the 2 sites (DSRL and Sellafield Limited), our transport subsidiaries, and many other organisations.

The materials were transported by road, sea, and rail (as part of this programme some High Enriched Uranium (HEU) material was also transported to the USA by air (see Case Study: Export of HEU in Support of Medical Isotope Production). This was carried out by our specialist transport companies (INS, PNTL, and DRS) under the protection of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC), with the support of police services in Scotland and England.

All of the transport packages used to move the material were licensed by ONR, who also gave permission for each of the shipments. The successful conclusion of this programme, in December 2019, completed SO17.

Spent fuel consolidation

Our strategy is to consolidate all of our spent fuels at Sellafield for long-term management. Consolidation brings benefits to the sites from which inventory has been removed, facilitating accelerated clean-up and decommissioning of those sites and reducing the security requirements. It also allows us to manage the consolidated inventory more efficiently, as we can concentrate the required assets and skills on one site.

Historically, this approach has been taken with Magnox and AGR fuels which were transported by road and rail to Sellafield for reprocessing. All Magnox stations have now been defueled and the fuel has been consolidated at Sellafield for long-term management. After reprocessing operations at the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (THORP) ceased, AGR transports have continued and spent fuel from the EDF AGR stations is being consolidated at Sellafield for safe and secure interim storage.

We are expecting an increase in the need for AGR transport capacity when the EDF stations stop generating and the reactors are being defueled.

Between 2011 and 2013 we took a series of decisions to consolidate exotic spent fuels from Dounreay, Harwell and Winfrith at Sellafield. This includes the 44 tonnes of breeder material from the Dounreay Fast Reactor (DFR), and 11 tonnes of irradiated oxide and carbide fuels, principally from the Dounreay Prototype Fast Reactor (PFR). It also includes fuel originally from the DRAGON reactor at Winfrith which is now being transported from Harwell to Sellafield for encapsulation in the Magnox Encapsulation Plant (MEP).

If spent fuels are declared as waste for disposal in a GDF, the inventory currently in interim storage would be packaged and sent to a GDF site. This would happen decades after the AGR stations have finished defueling and would require the spent fuel transport capacity to be increased again after a long pause.

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Consolidation of Spent Fuel and Nuclear Materials

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