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New end date at Dounreay ‘will mean a spend of £7.9bn’

By Alan Hendry

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The Dounreay decommissioning programme is now set to continue until the 2070s. Picture: Dounreay / NDA
The Dounreay decommissioning programme is now set to continue until the 2070s. Picture: Dounreay / NDA

Spending on Dounreay will amount to almost £8 billion between now and the site’s revised end date in the 2070s, it has been claimed.

A spokesperson indicated at the end of last month that the cost of extending the decommissioning programme was likely to be made public in the summer.

However, a worker has come forward to say that a figure for the estimated extension costs was provided to staff of NRS (Nuclear Restoration Services) Dounreay on their communications app on March 1.

The person also said: “This was relayed to all staff at Dounreay in the form of a presentation from our managing director [Mark Rouse] who presented a slide showing an end date around 2078 and a spend of £7.9bn between now and that end date.

“This obviously doesn't sit well when compared against previous dates of 2023 and more recently 2033 published within the NDA [Nuclear Decommissioning Authority] business plans and certainly not against the £1.9bn or £2.9bn figures declared.”

The worker wanted to know “how the NDA and NRS got both the timescale and the costs so spectacularly wrong”.

It was announced last month that the Dounreay clean-up operation will continue until the 2070s – some 40 years later than the previous date of 2033. The cost of the programme was previously said to be about £2.9bn.

In a report in the John O’Groat Journal on March 29, a Dounreay spokesperson said: “The estimate for delivering the revised lifetime plan to take the Dounreay site to its interim end point will form part of the Nuclear Provision, and be published in the NDA 2023/24 annual report in the summer. We are committed to delivering the Dounreay mission as effectively and efficiently as possible.”

Responding to the worker’s claims, a spokesperson said this week: “We constructed a new lifetime plan for the decommissioning of the site following the change of management in 2021. We operationalise this plan in a rolling, four-year near-term work plan that commenced on April 1 this year.

“Funding to deliver the first year of this plan is confirmed at £225 million. We can confirm staff briefings on the new plan took place during March.

“We expect revised estimates about the lifetime cost of the plan to be made public formally in the summer.”

In 2012, Dounreay’s operators set a specific end date of September 14, 2023. That was when all redundant facilities needed to be flattened and the waste sorted, segregated and made safe for the long term, it was reported at the time.

Later a new deadline of 2033 was put forward, although in March last year ex-councillor Roger Saxon, a former chairman of Dounreay Stakeholder Group, expressed the view that it too would be unachievable.

The first site-wide decommissioning plan published in 2000 envisaged a 60-year programme of work.

In 2023 Dounreay became a division of Magnox Ltd. Magnox was later rebranded as NRS.

It was reported in January this year that total spend at the Dounreay site during 2022/23 amounted to £202.4 million, with £113.5m being spent with the supply chain.

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