back to article Come on kids, let's go play in the abandoned nuclear power station

On the northern tip of Scotland stands Dounreay – 74 hectares of nuclear site encompassing the world's first fast breeder reactor, and one of the first nukes to be wired into a national grid. Built in an age of optimism – an era that wanted to turn the destructive power of The Bomb into energy that was too cheap to meter – …

  1. Chris Miller

    By train: Regular service from Inverness to Thurso

    Well, it's regular (sort of), 4 a day (each way) Mon-Sat and only one on Sunday (after all, it is the Laird's day of rest). Journey time from Inverness 4.5 hrs.

    It is a very scenic journey and passes lots of distilleries. "We're now passing the distillery." "WHY???"

    1. Steven Raith

      Re: By train: Regular service from Inverness to Thurso

      As I recall, the bus is faster - I think it's three hours.

      It's an hour and a half by car, or an hour if you drive progressively.

      Go via the A99 through Wick and up the A882 if you want a slightly more varied route.

      Steven "not been up there for a while" R

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: By train: Regular service from Inverness to Thurso

      "On the northern tip of Scotland stands Dounreay"

      At least until it has a meltdown - at which point it will be renamed so that they can pretend it never happened...

      1. cageordie

        Re: By train: Regular service from Inverness to Thurso

        I guess people who don't like this comment don't know the history of the shifting name of Windscale, or Sellafield, depending on how recently it has had an 'incident'.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: By train: Regular service from Inverness to Thurso

          They are probably not as ignorant as you who has failed to notice that the last nuclear reactor there to operate was shut down in 1994. It's pretty difficult to have a meltdown in a shut down and decommissioning nuclear reactor. There needs to be fuel in it for a start and someone has to pull the control rods out.

  2. Scott 53

    "cork used to prevent the ingress of radioactive material"

    Was there a diagram showing where to insert it?

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: "cork used to prevent the ingress of radioactive material"

      It seems a bit cheap as well. One cork is never enough :)

      1. phuzz Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: "cork used to prevent the ingress of radioactive material"

        You share the cork with a friend or family member...

  3. Jim84

    Steel Fuel Tubes

    Dounreay did prove that steel fuel tubes could withstand a high neutron flux. Moltex Energy plan to use them in their "Stable Salt Reactor" which will be trying to win a slice of the funding for small modular reactors being distributed in the UK this year.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4iRF6pilm3s

    1. JCitizen
      Headmaster

      Re: Steel Fuel Tubes

      From that film, I'm left with the impression that you Brits are way ahead of us Yanks in the MSR field. All of our scientists that worked on the last project for the nuclear bomber are dying off, and no one is teaching this stuff in the universities over here. If you ask a physics major student about MSR technology you will get a reaction much like a deer caught in the headlights. They don't know what you are talking about.

      1. phuzz Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Steel Fuel Tubes

        I'm not sure what level a 'major' in physics is, but even by degree level in the UK we're not taught reactor designs presumably for two reasons; partly it's because reactor design is engineering, and mainly because nuclear reactors are only one very small part of the entire field of physics.

        You'd be expected to understand the basics of nuclear fission but only as a jumping off point for discussions about binding energy and suchlike.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Steel Fuel Tubes

          I'm not sure what level a 'major' in physics is

          Undergraduate, so expecting specialized knowledge is unfair. While an undergrad degree in the US is typically four years,1 it also has many requirements outside the major for general-education and breadth. Students are typically exposed to some specific topics in the field, but at the whim of professors.

          (Undergrads have a little more flexibility to specialize in disciplines that have less-hierarchical bodies of knowledge, which usually means the humanities.)

          Even a master's degree is typically two years of classroom work followed by either a comprehensive examination or a thesis. So it's not reasonable to expect even someone who's finished the classwork for an MS in Nuclear Engineering (there are programs at Penn State, Berkeley, etc) to know anything significant about MSRs. Two years of classwork is not a lot of time to survey a field.

          1Some programs are longer because they combine four years' worth of classroom and lab work with internships or other practical experience, and some students may get through in fewer than four years by taking college-credit classes before entering the program or by taking course overloads.

        2. cageordie

          Re: Steel Fuel Tubes

          Reactor design, which my uncles Alan and Richard, and my friend also Alan, used to do for NEI Quick Reactors (aka NEI Fast Breeders) is physics, chemistry, mechanical engineering, civil engineering, electrical engineering, software engineering, systems engineering and a great deal more. British degrees give you a good start down the road to being useful to a project team. American degrees waste half their time on 'general education' and get you to the start of a Master's Degree which teaches you what the last year of a British degree teaches you. A British degree from a 'good university' also costs a quarter of what an American degree from a 'good university' costs and doesn't require another couple of years and twice the cost of a British degree to catch up. On the other hand we didn't get time for buggering about in classes not taught to any recognized standard by cynical people who know they are just wasting your time.

        3. JCitizen
          Black Helicopters

          Re: Steel Fuel Tubes

          @phuzz - I see you point, but I only hold a couple of AAS degrees, and even I know what an MSR is! I should think anyone with a true interest in physics to have a wide basic knowledge of events an any part of the field. Perhaps I'm expecting too much. I've had my nose in science magazines and books since I was a kid, so I guess I expect more from those who pick a field of study.

      2. h4rm0ny
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Steel Fuel Tubes

        I wonder how many people who don't understand MSR either modded up your comment just because it said that we (the British) know more about MSR than you do (the USA).

        More than one, I suspect. ;)

        1. JCitizen
          Happy

          Re: Steel Fuel Tubes

          h4rm0ny - I must admit it is true that engineering is probably the field that would expect studies such as this, but in Physics, things happen in an MSR that are quite curious and deserve higher learning examination.

          However - I found that even here in the US - if you want to start a career in X-ray (medical) graphics equipment repair, for instance, you are forced to learn about it by seminar from a company that makes the equipment, because it is impossible to pickup enough foundation knowledge from any form of college study. I sometimes wonder what we have these institutions for? Maybe that is why no one can get a job once they graduate!?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why is cleanup so hideously expensive. Shovel a few rocks, shoot a few radroaches. Done.

    1. Rol Silver badge

      It's the deathclaws that I'd be worrying about, radroaches are nothing but an irksome food supplement.

    2. Sean Timarco Baggaley

      "Why is cleanup so hideously expensive?"

      The problem was never the reactors or waste products, which can be simply shovelled into the nearest convenient tectonic subduction zone. No: the real problem, which governments have tried to hide over the years, was the giant lizards, insects, etc. that rampaged through small villages and towns.

      Unsurprisingly, the insurance premiums shot right up because of all that mayhem, making nuclear fission uneconomical.

      As a PhD in Pure & Applied Comparative Conspiracy Theories*, I can assure readers that there is ample documentary and film evidence -- most of it produced in the 1950s and '60s -- to support my thesis. Some of it can even be found on YouTube.

      * (From Oxbridge Dubious University.)

      1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: "Why is cleanup so hideously expensive?"

        The problem was never the reactors or waste products, which can be simply shovelled into the nearest convenient tectonic subduction zone

        So simple, everyone's doing it!

      2. Steven Raith

        Re: "Why is cleanup so hideously expensive?"

        "No: the real problem, which governments have tried to hide over the years, was the giant lizards, insects, etc. that rampaged through small villages and towns."

        Ah, Sean, no.

        That's just the locals.

        Steven "Was brought up a local, still has the scales to prove it" R

        1. eJ2095

          Re: "Why is cleanup so hideously expensive?"

          Thought all the sub humans appeared on Jeremy Kyle?

          1. Danny 14 Silver badge

            Re: "Why is cleanup so hideously expensive?"

            Pointless recycling unless you can find more adhesive. Damn that stuff is hard to find (and grow).

  5. cd / && rm -rf *
    Pint

    More please

    More articles like this please. Thanks Bill. see icon ----------------->

    ps. a nano-whingelette: this side of the pond, it's spelled "centre"

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: More please

      Yes, it's awesome to see GGB is back. I love the detailed in-depth look at things, even if I'll never get to see them in person.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I visited Dounreay in 1967.

    My abiding memory is of exotic materials, never before seen on Earth, with a half-life of under a minute ... baked bean flavour crisps!

    O, the white heat of technology! The future is here, and the future is now! (and prophetically if prosaically was indeed slightly orange).

  7. AMBxx Silver badge
    Happy

    Many years ago

    At the age of 12, I was taken around Wylfa nuclear power station on Anglesey. Even got to turn up the power output! Amazing place to see the inside of. Was given the radiation detecting badge to wear too.

    Still dine out on that 35 years later.

    1. chivo243 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Many years ago

      at the ripe age of 21 I worked at the Braidwood NPS in the states. I'm no operator, just a guy who worked for the piping and supports contractor during construction. I was only in the 'Can' a few times delivering drawing packs. It was a humbling experience, something so big, and we're so small. Everything I did was on paper, there were only two computer terminals in our entire building.

    2. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

      Re: Many years ago

      My dad took me to see both in my youth.. Back when the centre was on site. They had a display showing some of the decommissioning robot's they had onsite tinkering with the outside of the reactor. I remember being greatly amused by the radiation badges and checks to get in. Plus the concrete blocks of low level waste outside. Such innocent times.....

      I suddenly feel the urge to take the family on a trip to Sellafield....

  8. Alistair Silver badge
    Windows

    Nice read == agree we need more of these articles.

    Grew up less than 20 miles from (actually, still live less that 20 miles) Ontario's first electrical production nukes. At the age of 11 or 12 I recall going on the tour, including walking by the "decommissioning pool" - no tours now, that I'm aware of , and 4 of the 8 are fully shut down now, but it was quite enlightening. Tour included comparisons of FBR, BWR, and HWR and I still haven't seen how HWR haven't been deployed everywhere (oh, look, yes, they have ....) or more of them.

    1. Michael Strorm

      Re: Nice read == agree we need more of these articles.

      Did you go swimming in the pool?

  9. Andrew Newstead

    I visted here in 1988

    In the late eighties they actually did run tours around Dounreay. My wife and I visited in 88 and spent the morning being shown around with a party of about 20 public, grups and kids. It was a fascinating day. We were shown around the hot lab facilities with 7 or 8 inches of lead glass between us and chunks of Uranium and Plutonium, remote manipulators being used. We even went into the Reactor building (the second one, not the golf ball) and stood on top of the reactor, which was not running at the time.

    A very memorable day!

    1. bitmap animal
      Thumb Up

      Re: I visted here in 1988

      I went there a couple of times in the early 1980s and it was brilliant. As you say the tour went in all sorts of exciting places, pretty much full access. I too vividly remember standing on the reactor and also going in and out through the air locks and detectors. The guides were knowledgeable and very enthusiastic, loved to talk about the place.

      Shame my kids will never be able so see something like that. I think being there helps spark your mind, so much better than viewing from a visitor centre with endless screens.

      1. Andrew Newstead

        Re: I visted here in 1988

        Did they tell you the story about the visiting Prof who kept setting off the detectors - on the way in!

        Turns out he has a tiny piece of something radioactive caught in the turn up of his trousers that had been dropped back in his lab at Harwell...

        Whoops!

        1. Chris Beattie

          Re: I visted here in 1988

          I used to work at a nuclear power plant. I never set anything off on the way in to the controlled areas, but at least twice my hard hat got confiscated by the health physicists on the way out. No big deal: they'd let me know when they'd cleaned it up and I could come back to retrieve it.

          I was better off than one of the guys, who got his PANTS (or trousers, in Wallace and Gromit's English) confiscated. He received a pair of paper "modesty shorts" for his trouble.

          I was way, WAY better off than another worker, who got sent home in a whole paper suit. His car broke down in the rain on his way home, and his suit disintegrated while he was repairing the car! When he finally got home, he had to honk the horn until his wife came out, so she could get him a towel.

    2. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: I visted here in 1988

      And we still have similar tours at the site that started it all... Harwell. ;-)

      1. Alien8n Silver badge

        Re: I visted here in 1988

        @anothercynic do we? I used to work on the Harwell site, didn't know about any tours. There is however a section of abandoned road that looks like it could be used for filming a post apocalypse thriller. Also, several WW2 pillboxes scattered around the countryside.

  10. Anonymous John

    Fàilte gu na Dúnrath etc

    Why no bilingual sign? Does the SNP know?

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Fàilte gu na Dúnrath etc

      It's in Caithness which, along with Sutherland, was for a long time part of Norway. That's why the local dialect sounds more like Scandiwegian than Scots.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Half a century later and we no longer have the capability to build a new reactor, so we need to bring in the Chinese to build it for us.... I absolutely despair of this country's lack of desire to build stuff and the roll over and sub-contract it abroad attitude.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      But on the plus side we lead the world at banking - oh hang on

      1. LucreLout Silver badge
        Unhappy

        But on the plus side we lead the world at banking - oh hang on

        Sadly, we're no longer able to make even that claim. The regulators, once woken from their slumber, have been rather overzealous compared to their counterparts abroad, with the result that there are no longer any universal investment banks within the EU.

        It is important to understand that the bailouts were of retail mortgage banks, not of investment banks - Northern Rock, RBS, HBoS, B&B - all got in trouble by borrowing short term in the money markets and lending long term to borrowers who perhaps should not have been borrowing as much as they were. None are investment banks.

        Yes, Lehmans did manage to bust themselves, but that was by following the play book above: the unwinding of the company has led to all creditors being paid in full, and a surplus remainder that the liquidator and courts must determine ownership of.

        All full service global investment banks are once again American. That won't bode well for Europe in the next financial crash as they withdraw their capital to their home markets per their regulators demands.

        I know banks and bankers aren't popular, and that some will celebrate their curtailment, but ultimately the tax situation as it stands today breaks down like this: No banks, no NHS. Corporations may be finessing their tax base, but the people working for them cannot so easily, and make up a significant percentage of the net tax payers (only those earning over the upper threshold for most of their careers are actually net tax payers).

        I expect that I'll be on my own around these left leaning parts, but I for one lament the demise of another industry in which we once led the world, for it is not readily clear yet who will make up the missing tax contribution once the staff of the banks have gone, and without that, there will be no universal healthcare because we simply can't afford it.

        1. h4rm0ny

          @LucreLout

          That was interesting. Do you have a blog or anywhere you write stuff like this? If so, I'd certainly be interested in that as well.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "But on the plus side we lead the world at banking - oh hang on"

        There is no hang on - we still do. And in most equities, derivatives and FX too.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      >>Half a century later and we no longer have the capability to build a new reactor

      We do, many of those knowledgeable in doing so are still around and living in the UK. The only thing stopping them from being used, is that they are of Iranian nationality. In the 60's and 70's when Iranian nuclear physics graduates were being churned out of universities, western governments were snapping them up. Nowdays Iranian = terrorists in the same governments eyes, so they are overlooked.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Yeah, the Shah was big in buying nuclear tech. Sadly, he was a CIA arsehole.

        I thought the Iranian embargo had ended? (Except for the US, which immediately decided that ballistic missiles had something to do with nuclear bombs, and decided to use that pretext to continue with sanctions alone like easily-bought flipfloppers they are).

    3. Len Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Sorry to be pedantic. We're getting the French to build the reactor (if it even still goes ahead, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-35415187 ). The Chinese are only there to partly fund it. The UK doesn't have the money to subsidise plant construction as building nuclear power plants has become prohibitively expensive.

      Furthermore, the only way to get the French and Chinese to pay for construction is if we promise to pay them more than double the current market rate per kWh ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-22772441 ). The UK taxpayer is going to subsidise running a loss-making power plant for a couple of decades.

      By the way, I wholeheartedly agree with your point about the desire to build stuff. While in Germany it is a criminal offence to call yourself an engineer without the required five-year degree from a proper university, in the UK some bloke who did a one-day training to hookup broadband modems comes to my house calling himself an engineer. The UK has become a country where people aspire to become journalists writing thinly-veiled personal opinions disguised as 'news' instead of building bridges spanning 2500 metres across an estuary.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        My son is on an academic pathway which is vectoring him towards a career in science/engineering.

        So I don't expect that he'll be buying his own house unless his Camelot pension pays out early.

      2. Mike Richards Silver badge

        Isn't the new Bradwell B going to be a China General Nuclear Power Group or China National Nuclear Corporation PWR of the Hualong 1 or CAP1400 flavour? I'm increasingly doubtful we'll ever see the EPR here with Flamanville Unit 3 still looking like 'un cock up massiv'.

        Quite agree about the engineer label. In Germany they're the people who build exquisite pieces of technology that transform lives, here they're the people who come to fix the washing machine.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: CGNP

          "Isn't the new Bradwell B going to be a China General Nuclear Power Group or China National Nuclear Corporation PWR "

          Yes, at least according to CGNP, EDF, and some other bloke. Extract below.

          The extract says the reference design for Bradwell B hasn't started construction yet. Excellent. What could possibly go wrong this time.

          "In Germany [engineers are] the people who build exquisite pieces of technology that transform lives, here they're the people who come to fix the washing machine."

          'Design and build and look after' might have been clearer, but you're absolutely right.

          As I understand it, German organisations have historically been willing to invest in people (training), and in processes, and in technology. UK plc doesn't even know the meaning of invest any more courtesy of the likes of Weinstock at GEC. Do you think there might be some connection? And why the feck isn't the so called Institute of Engineering and Technology doing something for its UK members in this respect, in return for their subscriptions, rather than producing a monthy comic which is (with a few exceptions) a second rate imitation of T3?

          Extract as promised:

          "HPR1000 is given great attention from visitors in CHTF 2015. It is a China’s Gen-Ⅲ nuclear power technology researched and developed by CGN and its Chinese partners with fully learning the advanced concepts of international Gen-Ⅲ nuclear power technology and adopting Gen-Ⅲ nuclear power reactor type co-designed within top world-level standard. Safety and other performance indicators have achieved international advanced level and HPR 1000 is provided with independent intellectual property rights. On October 21, under the witness of Chinese President Xi Jinping and British Prime Minister Cameron, CGN and EDF formally signed an investment agreement on UK’s new nuclear power projects. According to this agreement, Bradwell B would adopt HPR1000 technology. It is the first time that CGN would construct NPPs in an old honored nuclear power country, which marks a milestone of “going global” of China’s nuclear power and the recognition of HPR1000 by European developed countries. In another development, the construction of Unit 3 and 4 of Fangchenggang NPP, as the domestic demonstration units of HPR1000 and also the reference units of Bradwell B, are expected to be started in near future." from

          http://en.cgnp.com.cn/n658564/n678421/c1153619/content.html

          1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: German organisations

            So if VW decided to diversify into the Nuclear Energy field, you'd be ok with that?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        the French are funding it (perhaps)

        "the only way to get the French and Chinese to pay for construction is if we promise to pay them more than double the current market rate per kWh"

        Even that's not enough for the French (state owned, nearly, EdF) who a few days ago have once again postponed a decision on whether to go ahead with Hinkley.

        Hitachi (involved in other bids) have noticed this too and appear to be playing the "pay us even more, or else" rule.

        e.g.

        http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/12128405/Hinkley-Point-nuclear-fiasco-spooks-Hitachi-boss.html

    4. Orwell

      We can build nuclear subs. Just can't build anything useful.

      On the subject of visiting nuclear sites: In the mid 80's I had a guided tour round Dungness Nuclear Power Station when they had an open day. Walked across the fueling floor, with tiles beneath my feet, directly above the reactor, while it was operating!

      Also, must have been in the late 1960's when I was in the Boy Scouts, we went on a tour of Winthrith which was (is it still there?) an experimental nuclear research station in Dorset. We all got suited up and I was allowed to handle a piece of uranium. Shame kids miss out on all this now.

    5. N2 Silver badge

      Im sure the powers that be will come up with a suitably long list of excuses, including:

      "We don't have the expertise" Failing to recognise the Royal Naval nuclear power progamme with a wealth of expertise in operation, construstion & repairing pressurised water reactors over many years.

      Takes aim at foot...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        And who makes the PWRs for the Royal Navy?

        "Failing to recognise the Royal Naval nuclear power progamme with a wealth of expertise in operation, construstion & repairing pressurised water reactors over many years."

        I'm thinking you may have missed the news in the last few days that Rolls Royce Derby have recently become the beneficiaries of £300M+ of state aid as part of the Successor nuclear submarine programme.

        Reports I've seen mention "propulsion systems" and don't explicitly mention RR Raynesway where the nuclear reactors that power the propulsion on our nuclear subs are designed and made, If it's not Raynesway, correction welcome.

        "About half of the £642m is to be spent on new industrial facilities at BAE Systems in Barrow and Rolls-Royce in Derby, which the MoD describe as helping to set up “the infrastructure needed to ensure the most efficient build of the new submarines”."

        http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/mar/03/michael-fallon-642m-spend-trident-replacement

        (in an article reporting predictions of a speech to be given by Fallon today, 4 March, at the Scottish Conservative Conference).

  12. Steve 39
    Mushroom

    If you'd like this, I'd recommend Chernobyl

    Slightly off-topic, but I'd throughly recommend a trip to Chernobyl.

    I went there just over a year ago, stayed the night in Chernobyl but most of the trip was around Pripyat, the forests near there and close to the reactor itself. Pripyat, the abandoned town, is fascinating and our group of 12 or so were the only people where 40,000 used to live.

    Felt safe, although there are some areas you still can't visit and it's interesting to hear the geiger counter go crazy near certain areas - chiefly where grains of radioactive material are still present in the woods or near the blades of the abandoned diggers that were used to move soil after the accident. Beer cheap in Chernobyl but the food is colourless, flavourless but totally in-keeping with the experience. Chernobyl is only really used by workers are are building the dome over reactor 4, the one which went pop.

    1. Darryl

      Re: If you'd like this, I'd recommend Chernobyl

      "the food is colourless"

      ...until you turn off the lights?

    2. Orwell

      Re: If you'd like this, I'd recommend Chernobyl

      Well, that's this year's summer holiday sorted then!

  13. Mattjimf

    Missed the visitor centre

    I was up there in 2009, didn't realise the visitor centre was in Thurso, so when I got to Dounreay, just stood looking and watching the polis exercising their dog (was heading towards Ullapool, and couldn't be bothered turning back).

    When I was a kid I did go on the tour of Sellafield (as it was then) as my dad was working on some of the construction of part of the site at that point.

    1. Jon Massey

      Re: Missed the visitor centre

      You didn't miss much to be honest, it's a bit old, sad and disappointing. Maybe I'm spoiled by childhood memories of regular trips to Sellafield Visitors' Centre but it really is quite crap.

  14. AbelSoul

    "..for another 300 years or so.."

    Great article but the above is thoroughly depressing.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: "..for another 300 years or so.."

      In reality the risk from the radiation is small, but people are paranoid about it now compared to, say, the very real risks of death or injury from car use, etc.

      For comparison, think of how long it has taken for the forests to grow back after we raided them for fuel and building materials. Oh wait, they haven’t...

      Or how long the impact of CO2 from coal, oil and gas will impact on the world?

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: "..for another 300 years or so.."

        "In reality the risk from the radiation is small"

        EXACTLY.

        There's a bigger risk of chemical poisioning from uranium or plutonium than from any kind of radioactives around any functioning nuclear plant (or one being decommissioned)

        1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          Re: "In reality the risk ... is small"

          A bit like the asbestos ironing board we used to have. Safe enough for everyone to have in their home.

    2. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: "..for another 300 years or so.."

      How will continuity of the operation be maintained? Much documentation will be lost in the corporate wars, and I can't see the Sino-Argentinian empire showing much interest in a peripheral province.

    3. Ali Um Bongo
      Mushroom

      NIM [Radioactive] BY

      *"...On the northern tip of Scotland stands Dounreay..."*

      *"...these days the site is Europe's largest decommissioning and cleanup operation. The clearance won’t be finished until the year 2333.."*

      *"...For the locals, there was the overwhelming excitement that such a modern technology was coming to rural Scotland..."*

      Must have been nail-biting. I'm sure everyone expected the South East to 'win the gig'.

      The Act of Union. The gift that just keeps on giving.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: NIM [Radioactive] BY

        Well, at least it's not guarded by the Knights Who Say Ni.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: NIM [Radioactive] BY

          "The Act of Union"

          Look, everyone dumps their toxic waste in third world countries. Don't feel too hard done by.

          "Well, at least it's not guarded by the Knights Who Say Ni."

          Might as well be if it's in Scotland. Don't expect conversation a received pronunciation English speaker could understand.

  15. Evil Graham

    Strange covenant

    "but there is not to be any form of fencing"

    I suppose that was in case you had to leg it down the road for some reason...

    Seriously though, great article. I love these.

    1. Steven Raith

      Re: Strange covenant

      Actually, it's just something that was a common theme in villages in Caithness (and still is, I expect - I've only been away 15y years) - there's not much of this 'home as a castle' thing and people are generally pretty chilled, as you tend to have to be in a (truly) remote and rural environment. I distinctly remember being at a mates house in Lybster, his dad mowing his lawn, and just tapping on the neighbours window and asking if they wanted their lawn doing too. And just mowed right over the 'boundary'.

      I don't miss the place for a variety of (quite dull) reasons, but I do miss some of the delightful Royston Vaseyness of it, and I mean that as a compliment.

      Steven "local" R

      1. Thecowking

        Re: Strange covenant

        There's no fencing, because they didn't want people taking the piste.

  16. AndrueC Silver badge
    Happy

    I spent six months collating data at Sellafield Thorp during construction. At the time I was quite impressed with the Huskies they were using on site. I was less impressed with the Amstrad portable I was required to work on. I had a better screen on my CPC at home :-/

  17. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      I think the easiest explanation is that we are trying to "throw stuff downhill"

  18. Alistair Silver badge
    Windows

    @Symon

    A substantial portion of Monbiot's statement applies to Thorium Salt reactors -

    In fact the *suggested* path is Thorium Salt > IFR as it reduces the recycling required at the IFR.

    But *that* is a hell of a lot of engineering that governments don't want to pay for.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. David Pollard

        ... use up the waste plutonium ...

        Unfortunately there seem to be one or two among the powers that be who think it would be a good idea to hang on to it, just in case it's needed at some stage in the future.

        1. druck Silver badge

          Re: ... use up the waste plutonium ...

          Plutonium is a very useful power source for space probes visiting the outer solar system, and NASA has run out. So it is useful to keep around for the future.

          1. cray74

            Re: ... use up the waste plutonium ...

            Plutonium is a very useful power source for space probes visiting the outer solar system,

            Yes, but that applies to Plutonium-238, not the Plutonium-239 isotope that is much more commonly produced in reactors. The common Pu-239 is good for bombs and power plants, but its half-life is too long (and thus heat output too low) for NASA's favored radioscopic thermal generators.

            and NASA has run out.

            NASA has enough on hand for 3 new RTGs, one slated for the Mars 2020 rover. But Oak Ridge National Laboratory has resumed Pu-238 production in its High Flux Isotope Reactor. ORNL started in 2013 with a few grams; announced production of 50 grams by December 2015; is planning to scale-up to 300- to 400 grams per year now; and is targeting 1.5kg/year shortly after that. An MMRTG of the sort used by Curiosity or Mars 2020 requires 4kg of Pu-238.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: ... use up the waste plutonium ...

              "Yes, but that applies to Plutonium-238, not the Plutonium-239 isotope that is much more commonly produced in reactors. The common Pu-239 is good for bombs and power plants, but its half-life is too long (and thus heat output too low) for NASA's favored radioscopic thermal generators."

              On the other hand, the thorium MSR cycle produces LOTS of Pu239 (which is left in the system to cook down, or extracted for things like RTGs). Any Pu239 component makes plutonium almost useless for bomb making. (Yes, there's lot of U233 and you can make a bomb out of U233, but there are a bunch of other isotopes in there which have the same effect as trying to make a Pu bomb, and anyone who sucessfully extracted "general salts" then tried to make a dirty bomb out of it would probably be dead from the fierce gamma emissions long before they got as far out as the boundary fence.

              Yes, LFTRs are fiercely radioactive. This is a good thing. It keeps bad guys at bay.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: @Symon

      "In fact the *suggested* path is Thorium Salt > IFR as it reduces the recycling required at the IFR."

      The big advantage of MSR fuel systems is that you don't need to do isotopic separation of the waste products (difficult). It can all be done chemically (relatively easy) and all the isotopes of whatever you have that's useful get tossed back in the pot to boil away.

  19. Peter Simpson 1
    WTF?

    Picture of the (ex) waste hole

    You get passing marks, just for that. Amazing that they thought it was even a good idea.

    And then...we have the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Superfund site in Colorado...proving that anything YOU can do, WE can do "better".

    U-S-A!

    U-S-A!

    oh...wait...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The finest blend of empirical and inductive proofs

      Newbie: "Ooooh, this bit's glowing? Should I report it?"

      Old Hand: "What, all the paperwork and maybe a demerit for messing up??? Just chuck it in the hole there"

      Newbie: "That doesn't sound very safe!"

      [Old Hand tosses the glowing bit down the hole]

      Old Hand: "Well, do you hear it going bang? No? No???"

      Newbie: "Ok, then, it sure is easier. Say, how did you figure out this fix?"

      Old Hand: "When I had a glowing bit last week I was just going to report it, but luckily Older Hand stopped me in time and showed me the hole."

      Newbie: "So how did he know the fix?"

      Old Hand: "Guess it's the same way, somebody wised him up too. But obviously there must be some original guy who actually checked it for safety; be a waste of time for the rest of us to second-guess him"

      1. Steve Aubrey

        Re: The finest blend of empirical and inductive proofs

        @Mongo:

        It's turtles all the way down . . .

        1. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: The finest blend of empirical and inductive proofs

          Until: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyshtym_disaster

          1. Peter Simpson 1
            Mushroom

            Re: The finest blend of empirical and inductive proofs

            "OOPSIE!"

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Always forgotten

    No fewer than three pages and there's no mention of HMS Vulcan, the part of Dounreay dealing with the engines in the UK's nuclear submarines.

    Vulcan is always forgotten about. Odd, that.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Always forgotten

      Ah yes, our good old PWR2 site - just off the to the right in the first photo IIRC.

      Went up there a couple of times for my then employer - and we were always wondering why we flew to Wick, 30 miles away, when there's an "airport" next door.

      On one occasion, I was working in the control room - this was before construction was finished, so no point playing with the controls - but I wasn't an authorised keyholder. So I'm working away, and the guy that was the keyholder went off for a break, locking the door behind him. A short time later, someone else came in and found me still working there - oblivious to the fact that I'd been locked in !

      Never got to do it myself, but some colleagues said that if the weather was very good, one of the company pilots wasn't averse to coming down from 20+k feet and flying down the lakes so people could enjoy the scenery.

      Mind you, it wasn't the engines they were working on up there - just the kettle. The engines were tested with big boilers running on oil or something wherever the factory was. At the shipyard, we had our own testing shed - with 'kin big oil fired boiler to run the turbines.

      Anon because obviously I'm still not supposed to talk about this defence of the realm stuff - even though most of what I worked on has not been decommissioned. That makes you feel your age, when there's a bit on telly that mentions a class of submarines being laid up prior to scrapping - and then you realise you worked on them being built, and they've had a 25 year service life.

  21. Tempest8008
    Coat

    Fission expedition

    "...but we probably won’t remember the pioneers who harnessed the power of the atom and then let it go again"

    Catch and release fission?

    I'll get my coat...

    1. Adam 1 Silver badge

      Re: Fission expedition

      Oh snap(per)!

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rather sad

    I remember the hopes of electricity too cheap to meter and some years ago visited Trawsfynydd nuclear power station which had closed but in those days you could just rock up and get taken on a tour of the control buildings. It was a sad place, the graveyard of dreams. Nuclear power seemed to offer so much, then it ended up for us as part of a handful of tourists looking round the bones of a power station. Those lagoons held radioactive waste, our guide said. They didn't always put the covers on. When it rained, they filled up and leaked into the lake. There was a bit of a fuss about it...

  23. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    30 year useful life; 300 year useless after-life

    (give-or-take a few years)

    Total cost of ownership?

    1. GitMeMyShootinIrons

      Re: 30 year useful life; 300 year useless after-life

      Average life expectancy of a wind turbine - 20-25 years. I wonder how long the reinforced concrete bases take to degrade? And these are about as useless.

      1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

        Re: 30 year useful life; 300 year useless after-life

        Yes, but a wind turbine isn't radioactive. It can easily be replaced, and recycled. No lead-suits or robots required.

    2. Hans 1 Silver badge

      Re: 30 year useful life; 300 year useless after-life

      >30 year useful life; 300 year useless after-life

      30 year useful life; 300 MILLION year useless after-life

      FTFY

      Considering the stuff needs to be disposed off properly, and needs constant attention, you would not want anybody to pinch any, it costs more than hiring 20 million bicycle riders paying each the salary of Mr Bill Gates for 100 years producing more leccy ... until we find a proper energy solution....

      1. cray74

        Re: 30 year useful life; 300 year useless after-life

        30 year useful life; 300 MILLION year useless after-life

        FTFY

        60-year useful life, 300-year useless after-life.

        FTFY.

        Well-maintained reactors are proving suitable for 60-year lives and new models are designed with 60 years in mind. With appropriate recycling and reprocessing of their spent fuel, waste output is 1% of a typical "once-through" light water reactor and is truly dangerous for 25-50 years, thereafter requiring about 300 years of oversight until you can chuck it in a hole as mostly non-radioactive waste.

        Once-through light water reactor fuel cycles have wastes that are an issue for 80,000 years, mostly due to longer-lived actinides like plutonium and americium. However, those actinides are pretty useful as fuel on their own. If you regularly reprocess the spent fuel for such isotopes then you're left with short-lived wastes that have half-lives of a few years to tens of years. After 300 years, they'd be less radioactive than their original ores. Or you can take the cheap, non-processing route and worry about them for 80,000 years.

        The thorium/uranium-233 fuel cycle avoids long-lived actinides and also produces fuel with a high risk for 25-50 years and negligible risk after 300.

        300 million years? Only if you've got a pile of fresh highly enriched uranium that didn't get used in a reactor.

        1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          Re: 30 year useful life; 300 year useless after-life

          By all means haggle with the figures if you wish.

          The useless after-life, be it 300 years or more is, compared to even 60 years of useful life, still a ridiculously high cost of ownership.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: 30 year useful life; 300 year useless after-life

            "The useless after-life, be it 300 years or more is, compared to even 60 years of useful life, still a ridiculously high cost of ownership."

            The _entire_ waste output of a reactor over that 60 year lifespan will fit in a single olympic-size swimming pool. If you keep it there for the 300 years it's safe to haul up and frankly it's best left in the spent fuel pools where it is now. It's less dangerous there than if you move it.

            All the handwaving over huge amounts of waste is relative. How many square miles of ash slurry would a coal plant of the same size generate in the same period?

            1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: olympic-size swimming pool

              If us Brits can't design a motorcycle fuel tank that doesn't leak then I'd hazard a guess that we wouldn't be very good with an olympic-size swimming pool full of nuclear waste.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nuclear waste in a bit of persepctive

    A good few years ago I had an intersting chat with a gent who was a bit of a noise in the nuke industry. He opined that, if you took the coal tip at Eggboro power station and deposited it on a nuke site, you would immediately have to cordon it off and manage it as low level - or possibly internediate level - nuke waste.

    1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: Nuclear waste in a bit of persepctive

      if you took a pile of uranium and deposited it on a coal tip you wouldn't need to cordon it off.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nuclear waste in a bit of persepctive

      "if you took the coal tip at Eggboro power station and deposited it on a nuke site, you would immediately have to cordon it off and manage it as low level - or possibly internediate level - nuke waste."

      On paper, he has a point. As theoretical and/or nuclear physicists sometimes do.

      In engineering reality, the nuclear industry's record in terms of housekeeping and bookkeeping is such that much of the time no one knew really what's in their low level waste, or even down the boreholes or in the nearby sea or washed up on the nearby beaches, so perhaps the caution with "low level" waste is well advised.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The secrecy

    I visited Sellafield* visitor center around 25 years ago and the thing that made me feel so unsafe about Nuclear power was not the radiation and its containment and storage etc but the secrecy and all the cloak and dagger security - the armed Police insisted on taking names and addresses before we went on the bus tour and did not say why they needed them.

    I really want to be a fan of Nuclear power - but this all really puts me off.

    Would I get the same treatment if I visited a Nuclear power station in France or Canada or....? or a Coal one in the UK?

    (*yes I know atomic weapon material was supposedly produced there)

    EDIT: I enjoyed the article and find the engineering interesting.

    <paranoid>anon because I know they ares still watching me</paranoid>

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: The secrecy

      I worked for a few weeks at Windscale in the late '70s, we were fitting the earth bars to the rows and rows of 3 phase cabs that controlled all the switching on a new pond.

      The security was highest around our copper earth bars, they were about 1cmX 5cmX 50cm and at 2 kilos a piece, were worth a small fortune at the scrappy!

      The money was good and the site canteen was out of this world, pint mugs of tea and good cooking, the only thing I was less keen on was the fish and chips, I can't seem to eat a fish with three eyes.

      1. akeane

        Re: The secrecy

        fisson chips...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The secrecy

      I've been to both English and French nuclear sites and all require your passport and home address etc to enter. It's very common, and I think in the UK it's a legal requirement to ID every person who goes on site.

  26. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    If you ever want to visit a fast breeder (that was finished but never used) and have a fun outing for the whole family:

    https://www.wunderlandkalkar.eu/en

    1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge
      Coat

      Fast Breeders

      Wunderland loves Fast Breeders: More visitors, more profit for them.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Fast Breeders

        But Wunderland is a planet of Known Space which delectably likes to develop esoteric weapon systems?

        1. BoldMan

          Re: Fast Breeders

          Damn Ratcats!

  27. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Pint

    Rather ballardian stuff

    There is a book on France's nuclear industry, "The Radiance of France" (a review here), which develops the history of France's ostensibly civilian nuclear programme and how it was "sold" to the nation. Anyone know of a similar one about the UK?

    Also, I want these glazed DU ashtrays.

    (Ballardian: "resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in J. G. Ballard's novels and stories, especially dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes and the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments.")

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rate this article: 9 out of 10

    "if we wait until 2021 the cost should have reached zero while the time will be in negative numbers."

    OK, 10 out of 10 :) :) :) :) :)

    More please.

    Readers may know that Wylfa, the last operating Magnox station, finally closed in December (2015) after a couple of life extensions, by which time only one of the two units was operating (due to lack of fuel), and the operating unit had been downgraded by maybe 20% or so for various engineering reasons.

    Wylfa final shutdown, in 43 seconds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qveeBfU5G4

    Wylfa last statutory outage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qveeBfU5G4 (3 minutes)

    Readers are less likely to know that the two computers used to monitor (not control) the reactors are now in preservation, one at TNMOC (MK), which you'll probably have heard of, and the other at the amazing Jim Austin computer collection in York, which you may not know about:

    http://www.computermuseum.org.uk/fixed_pages/marconi_TAC.html

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8KokMdUm20 (BBC Collectaholics, 2015, 20 minutes; Wylfa machine is 2 minutes in)

    Bill, fancy a trip to York? Do the NRM and Jim Austin on the same trip? Please? I'm up for crowdfunding it for the price of a pint (two pints if you do an NRM article too).

    1. Notenoughnamespace

      Re: Rate this article: 9 out of 10

      I love the National Railway Museum - made it down a couple of years back and was astonished to find it both comprehensive and child friendly. Geek's Guides tend to avoid museums: the idea is to highlight things that might have been missed, but should that policy ever change I'll be on the first train back.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The one thing that always stuck in my mind from a brief stint working at Sellafield was the sentence on the welcome/orientation note about how if the "escape alarm" sounded then the first action was to close the site gates.

  30. d3rrial
    Mushroom

    Death Star

    Did anybody else think of how eerily similar the first picture on page 2 looks to the Death Star from Star Wars? The irony!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Death Star

      But the first picture either looks like Rover or the Golden Ball of "Roadside Picnic" sitting unaccountably next to the seaside in a Stalkerian Trasheap,

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Crap pop culture joke and the additional costs of Not Borrowing to fund things

    "The construction at Dounreay was employing around 3,000 people, with 1,000 being “atomics” brought up from the south"

    The latter group got on swimmingly with the local girls- particularly the blonde ones who were forever noting that the atomics' hair was beautiful that night. (Sorry...)

    In all seriousness, if you multiply that £15m figure for the main second reactor by 21 times (the apparent increase in inflation since 1959) you get £315m, which still sounds ludicrously cheap in an age when the planned nuclear power station at Hinkley Point is to cost around £24 *billion*(!)

    To be fair, the cases aren't the same- Hinkley Point will have costs associated that Dounreay never did. Like paying the Chinese to design and build it for them in the face of Britain's long-atrophied nuclear industry.

    Or like indirectly paying them vastly over the odds to fund it via a PFI-on-steroids arrangement while guaranteeing and subsidising the risk and rewards regardless; because, of course, simply borrowing to fund it would be evil and have the nasty side-effect of appearing on the books whereas ultimately paying a lot more money to the Chinese doesn't.

    Even if future generations are going to be saddled with the massive additional costs and restrictions of this dogmatically-correct sleight of hand, it's worth it because they're Not Borrowing Money and it's all being done by Private Enterprise (via companies owned by the Chinese and French governments respectively) even though that required our government to throw money and guaranteed profits at them.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Crap pop culture joke and the additional costs of Not Borrowing to fund things

      I the people who are not skilled in atomics are powerfully trained in advanced genetic engineering, it will even out (trade, etc.).

      If they are skilled in web & stuff or management shenanigans, well....

      But there is no need to go mercantilist in any case.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Crap pop culture joke and the additional costs of Not Borrowing to fund things

      "Like paying the Chinese to design and build it for them in the face of Britain's long-atrophied nuclear industry."

      Considering the state of the art of UK and USA design was stuff which wasn't intrinsically safe when the power went off (even after TMI) this isn't such a bad thing (even the new "safety concious designs" have an appalling number of single points of failure, such as all cabling going into the control room)

      It took the japanese to teach the british motorcycle industry how to build an engine that didn't leak and the existing players are all firmly wedded to their way of doing things (the nuke industry makes far more profit from fuel supplies. You can't put GE rods in a Westinghouse reactor or vice versa, they simply won't fit). The chinese have an advantage in that they've been able to come in with a more-or-less clean sheet, evaluate all the existing designs and then work on the basis of a need for _thousands_ of plants.

      Nuclear will go to the developing world. It will be China who does it (war sells, peace expands - more profit in the long term from peace). Best help them make sure it's utterly reliable and safe.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Crap pop culture joke and the additional costs of Not Borrowing to fund things

        "even the new "safety concious designs" have an appalling number of single points of failure, such as all cabling going into the control room"

        Really? Sadly, I'm not particularly surprised, but I am disappointed (in the regulators in particular) if this is genuine and is considered acceptable. Further reading welcome.

  32. Mark 85 Silver badge

    In the States..

    Visit Oak Ridge, Tennessee. A very nice museum in town and the old carbon pile reactor is still open to the public. Sadly, it's now US citizens only that can see the reactor... :( Paranoia runs rampant still.

    https://www.ornl.gov/content/come-see-us

  33. Clive Harris

    I visited Dounreay in 1979 and nearly got a job there

    I visited Dounreay whilst touring Scotland in 1979. Young and recently graduated, and still recovering from a serious road accident, I'd just had to abandon my PhD due to funding problems, so I was looking around for my first proper job, Driving past, I stopped to take a look and was invited on a tour of the facility. Apparently there was an organised tour about to start and I'd just turned up at the right time.

    For me, the most memorable moment was when the lady running the tour stopped us at a particular spot and invited us to look down."You are now standing on top of the main reactor. Beneath your feet there is 3.9 tons of plutonium.". She then explained that, at that moment, the reactor was only idling at a few megawatts while some maintenance work was being done.

    A few months later, I was offered the chance of a job there. I turned it down, largely because I didn't was to live on the North coast of Scotland. I sometimes wonder how different my life would have been if I had taken up that offer.

    1. Steven Raith

      Re: I visited Dounreay in 1979 and nearly got a job there

      It would have been significantly quieter, you'd have had lots of free time from the lack of things to do (unless you have a real yearning to look at heather) and you'd be annoyed at the fact that it was a two hour drive to what most people would describe as actual civilization, with multiplex cinemas and, gasp, dual carriageway roads.

      As I've noted elsewhere though, I still have a soft spot for it, despite having worked in Central London and York. London and York have history, but the far north of scotland felt like it was living history in some respects.

      I'm sort of tempted to go back up there for a weekend sometime, find out who has got married to who and see if the same auld numpties are still living in the same villiages....

      We'll see.

      Steven "Thrumster" R

    2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: invited on a tour of the facility

      The contemporary equivalent of acceptance of the King's Guinea.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvT-ZxOiXDY

      (any excuse for a YouTube link)

    3. Clive Harris

      Re: invited on a tour of the facility

      It was remarkable casual in those days. I turned up completely unannounced and was invited in with no identity checks of any kind. The only noticeable concession to security was that we were asked not to take any photographs inside the reactor hall.

      How things have changed since those far-off innocent days of yore

  34. IvyKing
    Mushroom

    EBR-1 was the First Fast Breeder Reactor

    EBR-1 was the first Fast Breeder built and the first reactor to be used to generate electric power in 1951 (a few hundred watts). The follow-on reactor, EBR-II was the prototype for the Integral Fast Reactor.

    Mushroom cloud icon for obvious reasons.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: EBR-1 was the First Fast Breeder Reactor

      Mushroom cloud icon for obvious reasons.

      Which are? Nuclear reactors have as much to do with nuclear explosions as a glass of water has to do with tsunamis.

      1. IvyKing
        Headmaster

        Re: EBR-1 was the First Fast Breeder Reactor

        You are correct, but I do like to indulge in ark humor.

  35. Terry Barnes

    wind turbines

    Crikey. If only there was some way to re-use the concrete base when replacing a life expired turbine?

    1. tirk

      Re: wind turbines

      Well I can tell you from personal experience that it is frequently unbelievably windy there. One guy I knew who had transferred from Harwell tried to cycle to work there and got caught in a hail storm (he was not a pretty sight!). A fun game for the visitor to play is spot the tree!

  36. Alter Hase

    Where's the amusement park?

    I am disappointed at our British cousins' lack of imagination -- from the title of the article, I expected something like the following:

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/atlas_obscura/2013/10/18/wunderland_kalkar_the_nuclear_reactor_turned_family_fun_park.html

  37. Graham Marsden
    Coat

    Mysterious goings on at the abandoned nuclear power station

    Take a long hard look at Mr Boggins the old Caretaker and see if he owns a spooky mask...

    (Mine's the one with the "Meddling Kids" badge)

  38. Jonathan Richards 1

    I can't believe I'm the first to say...

    > First core ... with hat for scale

    God God, man. Do you not carry standard linguine on these expeditions?

    1. Peter Simpson 1
      Holmes

      Re: I can't believe I'm the first to say...

      Is there a Reg standard for scale, as there is for measurements?

      We use a banana, where I come from.

  39. Pete4000uk

    When I wasca lad...

    I went to Oldbury on the Severn with my local school. We went up the one tower and looked down on the hot rod water thingies. Of course, the radiation screening machine wouldn't let me out!

    I can also look out my bedroom window and see Barkley NPP, also on the Severn and that's in the latter stages of decommissioning.

    A reminder of when the future was great.

  40. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

    Pussy

    I knew some folk near Sellafield who had a cat called Fallout. It amused them to call it from the window and freak out the neighbours :)

  41. Franco Silver badge

    Always wanted to visit Dounreay, haven't been that far north in a long time though.

    I also really want to visit Cruachan power station (pumped storage in a hollowed out mountain) and used to drive past it regularly. Sadly always seemed to be there in winter when the visitor centre was closed though. :-(

  42. AndyC
    Happy

    Great place and fascinating

    Having spent quite a bit of time up in Thurso (birthplace of Sir William A. Smith) I can say that the cinema is great, the people are all really friendly and the astronomy you can do there is fabulous!

    If you get the chance, I would urge you to go and take a look. It might be 2 hours to Inverness, but the scenery is wonderful. And if any of you nuc types get the chance, work there. The work is fascinating, challenging and you will remember what you do with pride!

    Okay, so I'm trying to sell Caithness, Thurso and Dounreay, but it is a great place to be.

  43. This post has been deleted by its author

  44. cageordie

    Back then the government did know the risks

    Regardless of all the statements about the brilliant technology, the government and the MoD scientists at the time knew what they were doing when the put this place as far as physically possible from London. Where they lived. If it was safe they'd have put it in Portsmouth, or Southampton, somewhere convenient for the plutonium they were manufacturing to be shipped to the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment in Aldermaston

  45. DavidJB

    'Observant readers will have noticed that the plants are all dead and the base looks more like moon rock than a thriving ecosystem.'

    Is this supposed to imply that radiation has killed the plants? The exuberant wildlife around Chernobyl suggests otherwise.

  46. Brian Allan

    It is sad humanity has lost faith in nuclear energy, at least in the western world. It is still the most reliable, environmentally friendly source of electricity available! China can't be totally wrong!?

  47. Alien8n Silver badge

    Half-life

    Looking at the timestamps on the comments it would seem the half-life of a Reg article would appear to be about 3 - 4 weeks...

    1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: Half-life

      >Looking at the timestamps on the comments it would seem the half-life of a Reg article would appear to be about 3 - 4 weeks...

      Seems this topic has had a resurgence of interest. Bad news if, after 300 years the nuclear waste that is, at that juncture, deemed statistically "safe" exhibits a similar phenomenon.

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