Page last updated at 10:02 GMT, Friday, 4 December 2009

'Lost' radioactive material found

Old containers are being reopened as part of the decommissioning work

Highly radioactive material which was given up for lost at Dounreay has been found during the repackaging of waste at the nuclear plant in Caithness.

Uranium-235, a material that can be used for nuclear weapons, had been "safely" packed as waste years ago and not properly recorded.

Dounreay Site Restoration Limited (DSRL) is opening up old packaging to check for unaccounted uranium.

The review is part of the wider decommissioning of the plant.

DSRL said tiny amounts of previously unaccounted-for material was being found in "nooks and crannies" of scrapped pipes that had been packed into containers.

More accurate

More than 200 drums filled with waste produced during past operations at the plant have been opened up and their contents inspected before being repacked for long-term storage.

Decommissioning engineer Bob McKiddie said equipment being used to detect what was inside the drums was far more accurate than anything available when the containers were originally filled.

Mr McKiddie said: "We had suspected that the historical results had under-estimated the uranium content in a number of waste items.

"The repackaging work has resulted in an overall gain in the amount of uranium declared.

"The figures from the repackaging work show that material previously considered 'lost' was in fact safely packaged as waste."

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