The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has published a report setting out credible options for managing the breeder material from the Dounreay Fast Reactor. It says that there is a “clear and compelling strategic case” to remove the material from Dounreay and manage it at Sellafield with fuel from the magnox power stations.

The DFR breeder material comprises cylinders of uranium metal, about 150mm long and 35mm diameter, of which 14 are stacked end-to-end in a stainless steel tube, with each tube positioned vertically around the reactor core. There are 44 tonnes of breeder material at the Dounreay site, but because of the very high density of uranium metal it has a small volume of around 2.5m3. Thirty tonnes of the material was previously sent from Dounreay to Sellafield in the late 1960s.

The NDA considered five options and evaluated two of the most credible in detail:

• Transportation to Sellafield and management with Magnox fuel (for which the reference strategy is reprocessing)

• Immobilization in grout or polymer at Dounreay and store the product prior to disposal

The cost of the two options are estimated to be similar, around GBP 60 million, however the NDA says the Sellafield option “addresses safeguards and non-proliferation issues,” and makes “long-term savings in security costs more accessible.”

Work still needs to be completed by the Site Licence Companies (SLCs) to deliver the final business case to the NDA, so a decision can be made to implement the selected strategy for management of DFR breeder material.

If the proposal to remove the material to Sellafield is approved by the NDA, the first movement by rail is expected to take place early in 2012.

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