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Plan to extend decommissioning work at Dounreay until the 2070s will guarantee 'employment and investment for many more decades to come'

By Gordon Calder

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A PLAN to extend the decommissioning work at Dounreay until the 2070's has been described as "fantastic" news for the workforce and the Caithness economy.

Struan Mackie, the chairman of the Dounreay Stakeholder Group, was speaking after it was confirmed that the clean-up work at the site will last for decades longer than expected. The decommissioning programme was due to reach its end state by 2033 although that target was thought to be unrealistic by many.

Struan Mackie welcomed the extension and said it would "provide opportunities for decades to come."
Struan Mackie welcomed the extension and said it would "provide opportunities for decades to come."

Under the new plan, the timescale has been expanded by around 40 years and will guarantee "employment and investment in the Caithness and the north Sutherland area for many more decades to come."

According to Dounreay, the revised lifetime plan "provides a credible and robust route map to reach the site’s interim end state – the point at which all redundant facilities have been cleared and the resultant radioactive waste can be stored safely at the site."

The new strategy prioritises the early completion of work to dismantle the fast reactors and empty two historic waste disposal and storage facilities. Work will continue in the Fuel Cycle Area "with the aim of finding new and innovative approaches that will benefit decommissioning throughout the UK."

A spokesperson at Dounreay said: "The plan aligns to the NDA’s focus on high hazard reduction. It takes a targeted approach, decommissioning high hazard facilities with more known solutions first and continuing to develop improved strategies for the very complex Fuel Cycle Area."

It was stressed that Dounreay is going through "a significant transition of the way the company operates that includes a restructuring that will be enacted from April onwards."

The spokesperson added: "This plan gives us a credible and reliable programme of work that will be delivered through a rolling ten-year strategy creating a stable platform upon which we will continue to reduce the hazards and

continuously seek new and better ways to deliver value for the taxpayer. It will also maintain our focus on the safety, sustainability and security of the site.

"This new plan will enable priority investment in our current workforce and the site’s infrastructure."

Mr Mackie, a Thurso and Northwest Caithness councillor, welcomed the announcement and said it will provide "opportunities for decades to come."

"Dounreay is here for the long-term and this extension will provide more stability for the workforce, contractors and the supply chain. The site has been the cornerstone of the industrial make-up of Caithness and north Sutherland since the 1950s and will continue to be so for years to come. But what we must not do is take our foot off the pedal when it comes to diversifying our economy and we need to do all we can can to leverage other opportunities over and above this," he said.

Mr Mackie said the announcement was "not unexpected" and felt the previous timescale for the decommissioning programme at Dounreay was unachievable because of the complex nature of the work involved. "It was a failed experiment to try and speed up the work," he added.

Trudy Morris, the chief executive of the Caithness Chamber of Commerce, said: "It is no surprise that Dounreay will take longer to decommission as this has been muted for some time and it is welcome news that the region is now getting official confirmation of this."

Trudy Morris said Dounreay is "vitally important" to Caithness and north Sutherland
Trudy Morris said Dounreay is "vitally important" to Caithness and north Sutherland

She said Dounreay is "vitally important" to Caithness and the the north North Highlands, employing over 1200 people and supporting around 700 on-site contract workers, alongside a network local supply chain businesses.

"For many years, Dounreay has brought highly skilled, well-paid jobs to the local area, supported apprenticeships and graduate opportunities and provided substantial, tangible benefits to the local community through its socio-economic activity. As Dounreay will be here for some considerable time to come, we expect a continuation of these significant tangible benefits to the local area."

Ms Morris added: "It is crucial a local supply chain is retained in order to support the decommissioning mission ... and we will be working with Dounreay to maximise every opportunity to enable this."

Ron Gunn, the chairman of Highland Council's Caithness Committee, described the extension of the decommissioning programme as "great news".

Ron Gunn described the announcement as "great news"
Ron Gunn described the announcement as "great news"

"It is reassuring that there will be work at Dounreay for many decades to come. Dounreay is a huge employer of people and puts a lot of money into the local economy and the Highlands. It has been important to Caithness for years and will continue to be so for years to come."

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