Bids sought for nuclear clean-up

The dirtiest decommissioning job in Britain is about to get underway. The UK Atomic Energy Authority has taken the first steps towards hiring contractors who will take on the task of cleaning up 700m3 of highly radioactive waste from a deep shaft at the authority’s Dounreay site in the north of Scotland.

The UKAEA this week invited companies to express an interest in tendering bids for the job of retrieving and packaging the waste from the Dounreay shaft and a neighbouring silo. The deadline for interested companies to approach the UKAEA is 1 October 2000.

The authority annouced that its intention is `to build a team of qualified and experienced companies’ who will take the project from the initial design and engineering stages through to the construction and commissioning of the treatment plant and storage facilities that will be needed to deal with the waste.

The first key task, however, will be to identify the best method for isolating the shaft from the surrounding area, enabling the removal of the waste which contains elements of irradiated nuclear fuel.

The options proposed for Dounreay so far include creating an ice wall around the shaft or, alternatively, the formation of an underground concrete wall to prevent water ingress during the removal operation.

A spokesman said the UKAEA would probably opt for a consortium led by a nuclear company, including specialist contractors for the civil, mechanical and other engineering work involved in the project.

The decommissioning of the waste is expected to cost up to £350m over a 20-year period.

BNFL, NNC and the German-owned Nukem are believed to be among the front-runners to lead the bidding consortia.

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