World’s Deepest Nuclear Clean-Up Underway

Dounreay, Scotland. Image: By John at the English-language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The shaft and silo project ‘advanced transition’ work, the world’s deepest nuclear clean-up, is underway at Dounreay.

Radioactive waste was historically consigned to the 65-metre-deep shaft and the silo, an underground waste storage vault, over several decades starting in the late 1950s. Now the higher activity waste must be retrieved and repackaged, suitable for long-term storage in a safe modern facility.

Retrieving the waste from the shaft is one of the most complex decommissioning jobs that the site must complete, and innovative concept designs evaluating the techniques and equipment to be used for removing and processing the waste have been developed over the last decade.

In 2007, in a world first for Dounreay, the shaft was encircled in a boot-shaped ring of grout to isolate the radioactive waste from the environment, preventing large volumes of groundwater flowing into the shaft during waste retrieval and becoming contaminated.

Last year Dounreay Site Restoration Limited, the company responsible for the clean-up and demolition of the former reactor, awarded the £7.5 million contract for the advanced transition works at the shaft and silo to Nuvia and Graham Construction. The work includes the rerouting of existing services as well as construction and demolition works, preparing the waste facility to be emptied of higher activity waste.

Project manager Kirstin Polson said, “Cleaning out the legacy waste from the shaft and silo is one of the most significant decommissioning projects at Dounreay.

“We are now at the enabling phase of this major project to retrieve the waste using remote equipment in a specially designed facility, and to process it for long term safe storage,” she added

Dounreay is Scotland’s largest nuclear decommissioning project and is widely recognised as one of Europe’s most complex nuclear closure programmes. The work is being delivered by DSRL, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.


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Written by

Deirdre Tynan

Deirdre Tynan is an award-winning journalist who enjoys bringing the best in news reporting to Spain’s largest English-language newspaper, Euro Weekly News. She has previously worked at The Mirror, Ireland on Sunday and for news agencies, media outlets and international organisations in America, Europe and Asia. A huge fan of British politics and newspapers, Deirdre is equally fascinated by the political scene in Madrid and Sevilla. She moved to Spain in 2018 and is based in Jaen.

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