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Improvements required for storing materials at Dounreay nuclear site

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has served an improvement notice on Nuclear Restoration Services* (formerly Magnox Ltd) for shortfalls in arrangements for storing alkali metals at its Dounreay site.

Buildings used to store alkali metals, predominantly sodium, were leaking in rainwater - with pools observed where containers of these metals were being kept.

ONR inspectors judged that the prolonged period of exposure to moist and damp conditions is resulting in degradation of the barriers for safe storage of these chemicals on the Caithness site in Scotland.

Although nobody was harmed as a result of these shortfalls and there were no radiological consequences, ONR has concluded there was the potential for serious personal injury, if workers had been exposed to these hazardous materials.

Ian Phillips, ONR’s Head of Safety Regulation for Decommissioning, Fuel and Waste sites, said: “All nuclear site licensees have a legal requirement to ensure that hazardous materials are stored in suitable conditions.

“The storage arrangements for these materials were inadequate and fell below legal compliance and the high standards that we expect to see.

“We will be closely monitoring the Dounreay site’s response to this notice to ensure they take the required steps to improve their existing arrangements.”

ONR has issued the improvement notice to Nuclear Restoration Services under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, Sections 2(1) & 3(1); Nuclear Installations Act 1965 (NIA65), Nuclear Site Licence Condition 4(2); and Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) Regulation 7(3) &(4)

Nuclear Restoration Services are required to provide details to ONR by 1 April 2024 on the actions they intend to take to address these shortfalls with full compliance sought by 27 June 2025.

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 decommissioning project.

* Magnox Ltd has been rebranded to Nuclear Restoration Services. The legal name change will come into force in April 2024.