AT one time part of rural Dorset belonged to a 'golden age' of British science.

And what is thought to be one of Europe's most successful collaborations in applied science is remembered today.

The Dragon Reactor at Winfrith Atomic Energy Establishment (AEE) was a multi-national project that attracted workers from various countries.

It operated successfully from 1964 to 1975. At the time it was thought to be the most important international technical collaborations in nuclear energy.

Many readers remember the Dragon Reactor, which was under construction during the late 1950s and early 1960s.

One reader, Idris Martin, shared a picture of his late father in front of the Dragon Reactor, showcasing its construction and how it appears today.

Several readers also shared their personal connections to the reactor.

Pauline Stevens worked in the Dragon offices in 1962, noting that the offices had a diverse workforce.

Jo Kempster's mother worked at the reactor in the late 1960s, and although she is no longer alive, Jo possesses a letter opener and necklace pendant she was given at the Winfrith site.

Melanie Green, another contributor, discussed her time working at Winfrith from 1970 to 1973.

Melanie's future husband also worked at Dragon and they both have a letter opener as a memento.

They eventually left Weymouth in 1977 and relocated to the sister site in Culham, Oxfordshire.

Patrick Donnelly remembered that the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) managed the Dragon Reactor and shared another interesting detail.

When the reactor shut down, there was a lemon tree left in an unused office that was too large to fit through the door. He wondered what became of it!

The Dragon reactor opened in 1964 and was sponsored by the International Organisation for Economic Development as a collaboration between 12 European countries to prove its feasibility.

Winfrith's steam generating heavy water reactor provided the national grid with enough electricity for a town the size of Dorchester.

Other facilities included fuel manufacture and examination, plutonium laboratories, nuclear waste treatment and storage and radioactive laboratories. 

The last reactor closed in 1995.

Cooled by the inert gas helium, the experimental reactor was a forerunner of gas turbine-modular helium reactors.

These reactors developed from technology pioneered by Dragon, are highly efficient and reliable with little contaminated waste compared with other forms of nuclear reactor. 

Decommissioning of the Dragon Reactor began in 2005, but stopped in 2007 when the funding for Winfrith decommissioning was reduced. 

Dragon decommissioning began in 2005 but was halted after a couple of years due to funding problems.

Further money became available for projects at Winfrith in 2011 which enabled decommissioning to restart.

Phase one involved removing all of the reactor plant outside of the reactor pressure vessel, a task which saw 360 tonnes of reinforced concrete, 258 tonnes of steel, 85 tonnes of lead, 140 cubic metres of perlite and 25 cubic metres of asbestos shifted.

It was a very challenging undertaking for the firm carried out the work, demonstrating much expertise at the sharp end of nuclear decommissioning. 

Much of Dragon’s workface had not been exposed for almost 50 years. New techniques were tried, including using cutting machinery normally used in the oil and gas industry. 

There was also a number of challenges to overcome including asbestos and disposing of some ‘unique’ waste.

The personal stories and mementos shared by readers provide a glimpse into the significance of the dragon reactor project and its lasting impact on those who were part of it.