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ONR approves relicensing of Dounreay nuclear site

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has permissioned the relicensing of the Dounreay nuclear site in Scotland.

Magnox Ltd, owned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), has become the new nuclear site licence holder for the Caithness site with effect from 1 April 2023, taking over responsibility from Dounreay Site Restoration Limited.

ONR has completed a thorough assessment of the relicensing application to ensure that Magnox Ltd is fit to hold a site licence and to assume the legal duties and responsibilities that will be required of them, as required under the Nuclear Installations Act (1965).

As part of the assessment ONR’s specialist inspectors looked at Magnox Ltd’s organisational capability and resources.

The assessment also focused on the safety and security at Dounreay to provide reassurance that the relicensing will have no detrimental impact on these vital areas.

Any implications for safeguards and the transport of materials to and from the site have also been scrutinised.

ONR worked alongside the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, which has updated the environmental permits in parallel with the relicensing.

Ian Phillips, ONR’s Head of Safety Regulation for Decommissioning, Fuel and Waste, said: “We have completed a detailed and thorough assessment of the relicensing application and we are satisfied that Magnox Ltd has demonstrated its suitability to become the new nuclear site licence holder of the Dounreay site.

“We are satisfied that these changes will have no detrimental impact on nuclear safety, security, safeguards or transport.”

For any nuclear facility to operate in Great Britain, the organisation (Corporate Body) who runs and manages the site must have a nuclear site licence, which can only be granted by ONR.

Providing there are no material changes to the circumstances under which the licence was granted, a licence can remain in force for an indefinite period.

Dounreay was the UK's centre of fast reactor research and development from 1955 until 1994 and is now Scotland's largest nuclear clean-up and demolition project.

It was where some of the nation’s leading scientists and engineers experimented with plutonium, uranium, and other metals to give Britain the knowledge to generate electricity using a more advanced type of nuclear reactor.

After four decades of research, stretching back to the earliest days of the nuclear industry in the UK, decommissioning the site is a major undertaking.

Today, Dounreay is a decommissioning site of construction, demolition and waste management activities carried out to leave the site in a safe condition for future generations.