Dounreay reprocessing setback

30 June 1998

On 5 June, the government announced that the UK Atomic Energy Authority would no longer seek commercial reprocessing work. This was the result of a business assessment made by the AEA which suggested that the market did not justify the needed investment to upgrade the plant (see page 10 for more information on Dounreay). A few days later, the Health & Safety Executive released an internal safety study on the Dounreay fuel cycle area (FCA) that it had completed in June 1997. Refered to as a “memorandum,” this is a blistering critique of the waste management problems that were unresolved at the site, and includes the comment that “the hazard of criticality is not being afforded the respect it deserves. ”The report was made public to coincide with the opening of an enquiry by the Parliamentary Trade and Industry Select Committee into Dounreay’s operations. The AEA issued a statement claiming that it had developed a “composite programme” of work to upgrade the FCA, and had sent a report on the remediation to the Nuclear Inspectorate in March, along with a schedule of further work to be carried out. The HSE explained the it had not made public the report earlier because “for legal reasons to do with its potential impact on matters the UKAEA regarded as commercially confidential.” This referred to the reprocessing market and, following the 5 June announcement, the reason for withholding the report became redundant.

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