Tony Fountain, the newly-appointed chief executive of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, donned hard hat and protective clothing to step inside the world’s biggest liquid metal destruction project.
Almost 1700 tonnes of toxic liquid metal flowed through the circuits of the fast reactors at the former nuclear research site.
Less than 50 tonnes now remain – but the final batches are among the most hazardous to be found anywhere in the world.
Their safe destruction is a key objective for the NDA and the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change which sponsors the work.
Its completion within two years will be a milestone in the clean-up of Dounreay, eliminating one of the major hazards left over from Britain’s abandoned experiment with fast reactors.
Mr Fountain joined the NDA in October from BP where he was chief operating officer of the fuels value chains business.
On his first visit to Dounreay, he was shown around the specially-designed chemical plant that is destroying the heavily contaminated alloy of sodium and potassium that is being lifted in batches from inside the Dounreay Fast Reactor.
The work is being carried out for the NDA by Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd, whose managing director Simon Middlemas said: “The liquid metal hazard at Dounreay is one of the most pressing legacies that the NDA is dealing with, so I was very pleased we were able to take its new chief executive inside the plant to see the progress we are making to rid the country of this problem.”