First Modular Construction Nuclear Analysis Lab handed over at Dounreay


The first nuclear facility of its kind to be built using modular construction has been handed over and is now undergoing active commissioning at Dounreay in Scotland.  The laboratory for the analysis of radioactive materials was constructed using a Yorkon off-site building solution from the Portakabin Group, and is one of the most complex and remote modular building projects ever undertaken in the UK.

The contract for the £9m building was awarded by site clean-up contractor, Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd (DSRL), to a team led by off-site manufacturer and main contractor, the Portakabin Group.

The 1,300sqm building was manufactured off site at the Portakabin Group production centre in York and was craned into position in only four days to minimise disruption to operations at Dounreay.  It provides six laboratories to allow DSRL to comply with its statutory and environmental monitoring requirements until the Dounreay site is closed.  The scheme will remain in use for up to 25 years until the site decommissioning process has been completed.  It will then be deconstructed – the building modules are inherently easy to disassemble, recycle and re-use elsewhere, making the approach highly sustainable.

The scheme accommodates 36 fume cupboards, glove boxes and a specialised nuclear ventilation system with heavier, more complex ductwork compared to other applications of modular construction.  It also incorporates acid and non-acid fume extraction, HEPA filtration, and a discharge stack, and each laboratory has one-hour fire containment to the entire building fabric – a first for the modular industry.

Commenting on the project, Maryrose Bailey, Senior Project Manager at Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd, said, “The Yorkon solution is very good and has resulted in a really excellent facility.  We are impressed with the finished building which feels spacious and solid and benefits from outstanding thermal insulation.  You would definitely never know it was built in a factory.  We are looking forward to having the facility fully operational after the active commissioning phase.”

Simon Ambler, Director of the Portakabin Group, added, “This was one of the most complex and remote projects that we have undertaken in recent years, and we are pleased to have received such positive feedback about the quality of the building.  It successfully demonstrates the huge potential of off-site construction for similar highly specialised industrial facilities.”

The Dounreay scheme has been designed in full compliance with stringent nuclear industry requirements and regulations for ionising radiation and to withstand the rigours of a highly exposed marine environment.  Its facilities include the laboratories, offices, drench showers and boot barrier in the active area, with ancillary accommodation for offices and locker rooms in the clean area.