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Young  people  are to be offered apprenticeships in nuclear decommissioning for  the  first  time  at  Dounreay  as part of the 4 billion programme to dismantle the experimental reactor establishment.

The  UK  Atomic  Energy  Authority today announced it is setting up a pilot scheme  with the aim of creating the first Modern Apprenticeship in Nuclear Operations and Decommissioning in the UK. An initial four young people will be  recruited  over  the  next  few months to begin their apprenticeship in August.

The  apprenticeships  are  in  addition  to the existing craft, scientific, technical and secretarial training schemes for young people at Dounreay.  Dounreay site director Peter Welsh said: "Dounreay is at the forefront of a nuclear  decommissioning business estimated to be worth some 48 billion in the  UK  alone  over  the  next  few  decades, so I'm delighted we are also leading  the  way in the creation of opportunities for young people in this area to learn the skills that will be in demand as more sites in the UK and overseas are decommissioned.

"The  expansion  of our apprenticeship programme underlines the size of the undertaking  we  have  embarked  on  in  dismantling  a  site as complex as Dounreay,  with  its  legacies  of atomic experiments dating back almost 50 years.   The  traditional  craft,  scientific,  technical  and  secretarial
training  continues  to  be  relevant  in  the  new  era  of  environmental restoration  but it is just as important that we tailor our apprenticeships to   deliver   high   quality   operators   with   a  particular  focus  on decommissioning."

The  announcement  was welcomed by Mr Brian Wilson, Minister for Energy and Construction,  who  said:  "The  training  of  young  people at Dounreay is essential  for  the  long  term  planning of decommissioning projects. I am delighted  to  see UKAEA maintaining an exemplary tradition of training and development in the Highlands and Islands.

"The  new  era  of  decommissioning  and environmental restoration presents numerous  opportunities  for local industries and economies to benefit. One of  the  best  ways  to  maximise  this  potential  is  to  invest in youth development,  and  the  apprenticeships  announced  today  build  upon  the existing  opportunities  for  young  people  at  Dounreay within the craft, scientific, technical and secretarial fields."

The apprentices will gain vocational qualifications at both levels 2 and 3, which  will  require  a  programme  of  safety induction backed up by basic training  in  construction  skills, electrical and mechanical safety, UKAEA training  courses  and personal coaching. Assessment will be carried out at work  placements  including operational plants dealing with decommissioning waste,  laboratories  and  decommissioning  plants,  as  well  as  off-site placements with local construction companies and other related businesses.

The  apprentices  will  attend  North  Highland  College  in  Thurso  on  a day-release  basis  to complete both the National Certificate in Processing and  the  City  and  Guilds Radiation Safety Practice Part One certificate, with  the  possibility of progression to an HNC. They will join other UKAEA apprentices  on Outward Bound training at Locheil and will take a full part in  community  activities,  such as construction of a Viking Longship built for the 2002 Thurso gala.

Caithness  and  Sutherland  Enterprise  is  providing  financial assistance towards  the  Modern  Apprenticeships.  Carroll  Buxton, Chief Executive of CASE,  said:  "Modern  Apprenticeships  represent  a  real success story in Caithness and Sutherland - they provide an excellent opportunity to acquire qualifications  while  earning and gaining essential work experience.  CASE is  delighted that UKAEA has identified a specific apprenticeship which can equip  the  apprentices  to  work  safely  and  effectively  in all sectors undertaking major decommissioning projects."

UKAEA has trained approximately a thousand apprentices in a range of skills at Dounreay since the first intake of young people in 1955.   Currently, up to 15 young people are recruited each year on craft, scientific, technical and secretarial training programmes.

The new Modern Apprenticeship Framework for Nuclear Operations and Decommissioning will be developed in consultation with the Modern Apprenticeship Implementation Group, Sector Skills Development Agency, and the formative Sector Skills Council for Nuclear Technology.

In December, the North Highland College of the University of the Highlands and Islands Millennium Institute announced plans to set up a Decommissioning and Environmental Remediation Institute to deliver undergraduate, postgraduate and research associated with decommissioning.

The Dounreay Site Restoration Plan involves some 1500 activities required to decommission the site over the next 50-60 years at a cost in the region of 4 billion. Published in October 2000, it can be viewed at www.ukaea.org.uk

UKAEA is currently spending 140-150 million a year on decommissioning Dounreay. This is worth approximately 75 million a year to the economy of the Highlands alone.