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Memorandum submitted to the Committee by UKAEA
(United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority)
18 January 2005

    —  Over the past 50 years, UKAEA at Dounreay has provided a major source of direct and indirect employment in the Caithness and North Sutherland region. Dounreay is estimated to support nearly 5,000 jobs across the UK, with some 2,050 of those jobs located in Caithness.

    —  In April 2005, The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) will become responsible for the decommissioning of UKAEA and BNFL sites and UKAEA will become a contractor to the NDA. UKAEA has responded to the challenge of competition by recently announcing the acceleration of the decommissioning programme from 2063 to 2036.

    —  The acceleration of the decommissioning programme has implications for the Dounreay workforce and in recognition of this issue, UKAEA is working closely with the local development agencies.

    —  The main thrust of the work with the development agencies is to ensure that the local business community maximise the benefits of significant spending from the decommissioning programme in the short term and to use this opportunity to lay the foundation of a sustainable economic base in the longer term when the Dounreay decommissioning project is complete.

    —  The current training opportunities provided by UKAEA in the North of Scotland can instil qualities of enterprise, innovation and learning from the decommissioning programme. It is these qualities, gained from cleaning up the nuclear legacy, that are establishing the Northern Highlands of Scotland as a world class base for expertise in nuclear decommissioning and environmental restoration and will ensure that the ultimate legacy of Scotland's first "atomic factory" is one everyone can be proud of.

    —  UKAEA does not have a view on what the long term solution for managing the UK's radioactive waste should be, as these issues are the responsibility of the Committee of Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM).

    —  UKAEA is leading the UK Government's involvement in the fast track development of fusion power, which offers a safe and environmentally benign alternative to fossil fuels. This work is being carried out by UKAEA at Culham in England.


  The United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) was incorporated as a statutory corporation in 1954 and pioneered the development of nuclear energy in the UK. Today we are responsible for managing the decommissioning of the nuclear reactors and other radioactive facilities used for the UK's nuclear research and development programme in a safe and environmentally sensitive manner. Our objective is to essentially restore the sites for conventional use.


  The UKAEA Dounreay Nuclear Test Research Establishment was established 50 years ago in 1955 for the development and demonstration of nuclear fast reactor technology for the production of electricity. The role, by necessity evolved to provide all the functions to serve that goal with the addition of fuel fabrication, reprocessing and waste management activities all integrated on one site.

  Three reactors were constructed and operated, the Dounreay Materials Test Reactor (DMTR), the Dounreay Fast Reactor (DFR) and the Prototype Fast Reactor (PFR), to advance the science and technology behind nuclear fast reactors. All programmes were successful in meeting the goal of developing fast reactor technology as a viable proposition for commercial power generation.

  The choice of Dounreay for this project had a major impact on the area. The nearest town of Thurso trebled in size from 3,000 to 9,000, UKAEA built 1,000 new houses, and new schools and a college were constructed. New businesses developed to take advantage of contract opportunities at the site.

  In 1988, the Government announced that the fast reactor programme would be terminated in 1994. The then Highlands and Islands Development Board commissioned consultants PIEDA to examine the socio-economic consequences of this, and additional funding was made available to the economic development agency to offset the impact on Caithness and Sutherland of the rundown of the programme.

  The cessation of the programme in 1994 led to a substantial reduction in manpower at Dounreay. UKAEA sought to offset the loss of government funding at Dounreay through diversification as a nuclear fuels business. In 1998, however, UKAEA concluded this business was no longer feasible, leaving it to focus entirely on decommissioning of the fast reactor liabilities.

  A major recruitment drive took place to staff the decommissioning programme, and employment levels increased substantially.

  In 2000, UKAEA Dounreay published the Dounreay Site Restoration Plan (DSRP), which at that time was probably the most comprehensive blueprint for the restoration of a major nuclear site in the world. This envisaged a 60-year programme, costing in the region of £4 billion, with employment levels remaining high during the major construction period associated with the first 20 years. In 2001, the Scottish Executive announced the formation of a decommissioning task force under the auspices of the Highlands and Islands Enterprise network to address the opportunities and threats arising from closure of the site.


  In April 2005, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority will become responsible for the decommissioning of UKAEA and BNFL sites. UKAEA will become a contractor to NDA, and it is expected these contracts will be opened to competition at a later date. UKAEA is preparing for the challenge of competition, and in October 2004 announced an acceleration of the Dounreay decommissioning programme from 2063 to 2036, and a reduction in estimated cost to £2.7 billion.


  It is difficult to overstate the importance of UKAEA to the economy of the Dounreay local area, given that the company and site has been a major source of direct and indirect employment in the region for the past 50 years. While the focus of work carried out at Dounreay has now changed from the development of the fast reactor and its fuel cycle to the decommissioning and environmental restoration of the area, the scale of the work to be undertaken will ensure the site remains a major employer in the area.

  Consultants assess the current impact of Dounreay on the local economy as follows:

    —  the activities of the site support some 2050 local jobs in the area, accounting for nearly 20% of the total employment across Caithness and North Sutherland;

    —  decommissioning Dounreay is worth approximately £80 million a year to the economy of the Highlands in general and Caithness and North Sutherland in particular through net salaries, pensions, contracts and sub-contracts;

    —  across Scotland as a whole, the total employment impact of the activities of UKAEA Dounreay is estimated to be nearly 3,000 jobs, with only around 870 local outside the local Caithness and Sutherland area; and

    —  a further 1,740 jobs are supported across England and Wales. As such, in total the activities of UKAEA Dounreay are estimated to support nearly 5,000 jobs across the UK as a whole.

    —  A number of key employers based in the local area act as contractors to UKAEA, while other local service providers benefit from the spending power generated by UKAEA's activities.

    —  While not the only major employer located in the area, the presence of UKAEA contributes to the unusual employment structure in Caithness and North Sutherland. Rather than appearing typical of a remote rural area (high concentration of employment in tourism, traditional manufacturing, low share of full time jobs), the employment structure of the region is more akin to a small urban region (high concentration of employment in advanced manufacturing and business services, high share of full time jobs).


  As previously stated, UKAEA is embedded within the day to day economic activities within the Dounreay area. Its association with the local community over the last 50 years has been positive and very healthy in regards to the economic, social and cultural activity. As such UKAEA has a strong sense of responsibility to the local community and wishes to ensure that its activities can provide a positive economic influence over the area for many years to come.

  With the advent of the NDA and the expected introduction of competition for the management of the Dounreay site within the next five years, UKAEA must fulfil its governmental obligations alongside those of corporate social responsibility to its employees and the community. UKAEA intends to fulfil its obligations to government by accelerating the decommissioning of the legacy of the fast reactor technology developed at the Dounreay site.


  The nature of nuclear decommissioning at a site is that the more successful the project, the fewer staff and resources are needed to complete the job. The figure below presents the anticipated run down of UKAEA personnel required to decommission the site, as our new accelerated programme progresses. It is anticipated that this trend will be mirrored in the local contracting community.

  UKAEA anticipates that the required decrease in staff numbers for the first five years will be able to be met through natural wastage and retirements. UKAEA are also making efforts to re-direct UKAEA staff into project delivery roles by supplementing existing skill sets with new training to provide them with the tools to meet the new opportunities within decommissioning. UKAEA have also made a commitment to ensure that the existing apprentice, scientific trainee and graduate recruitment will still be undertaken at current rates of eight apprentices, four scientific trainees and six graduates per year.

  UKAEA appreciates that it needs to retain core skills within its staff and recognises the need to address the shortfall in nuclear skills. To this end UKAEA has made a number of investments to ensure that local community can provide a highly skilled and experienced workforce to help both with the Dounreay decommissioning project and make the area attractive for other companies to invest in. Some of these initiatives are:

    —  UKAEA's Major Project and Engineering Director is the chair of the advisory council of the UHI Millennium Institute Decommissioning and Environmental Remediation Centre (DERC) at Janetstown, near Thurso.

    —  UKAEA launched Britain's first modern apprenticeship in nuclear decommissioning, in partnership with Caithness and Sutherland Enterprise (CASE) and North Highland College UHI in 2003.

    —  UKAEA has invested £300,000 in a Learning, Education and Development Centre at Dounreay in 2004, which delivers training to personnel all over the UK.

    —  UKAEA has collaborated with the North Highland College UHI, CASE and French counterparts CEA and Grenoble university to establish a European masters degree in decommissioning, creating a qualification recognised throughout Europe.


  UKAEA has always strived to ensure that it has good local links with the community. Since the publication of the Dounreay Site Restoration Plan in 2000, UKAEA has been working with CASE in support of their Dounreay Decommissioning Task Force.

  UKAEA is also providing support to the Caithness Marketing Initiative being spearheaded by Lord Maclennan (and supported by the Prince's Trust) by seconding a senior manager for three years to assist with the establishment of the initiative. UKAEA is also is facilitating the involvement of a regeneration "guru" Professor John Fyfe as an expert advisor to the local community agencies. In addition UKAEA is undertaking a local opinion survey on issues affecting Dounreay, including socio-economic development in the coming months.

  As a NDPB charged with the responsibility of the environmental restoration of its own sites, UKAEA does not have the responsibility or remit to undertake regional development. Economic development in Scotland is devolved and at the local level sits with CASE, part of the Highlands and Islands Enterprise Network. UKAEA is working very closely with the development agencies to support their programmes and efforts to ensure a viable economic future for Caithness and North Sutherland


The UKAEA has publicly stated goals and a mission statement that build on its core values of safety, environmental responsibility, value for money, public acceptability, personal accountability, and continuous improvement. These values are also at the heart of its policy on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). UKAEA is committed to making social and environmental responsibility integral to the way it does business, based on policies and practices that include:

    —  Safeguarding the health and safety of the general public, employees and contractors working on UKAEA sites.

    —  Protecting the environment.

    —  Providing value for money to shareholder, customers, and UK taxpayers.

    —  Supporting the prosperity and well being of the communities around UKAEA sites.

    —  Maintaining good employment practices.

    —  Dealing fairly with contractors and suppliers.

    —  Being open and honest in communications.

    —  Consulting and engaging proactively with stakeholders.

  UKAEA has undertaken a number of CSR initiatives in the past year including investing £500k in the refurbishment of Thurso Town Hall, as a community owned civic amenity centre and major gateway for tourism in Caithness incorporating the important story of Dounreay. UKAEA has also donated a £50,000 grant to the award winning community regeneration project in a depressed area of Wick (the highest unemployment rate in the Highlands and Islands) for sustainable development activity.


  As required by its forthcoming contract with the NDA in April, UKAEA is currently working on the development of a Dounreay socio-economic plan to assess the effect of its newly accelerated decommissioning strategy. The socio-economic plan will develop and continue the significant socio-economic development work that UKAEA has carried out over the last 50 years and will highlight some of the more significant activities and their consequences.

  UKAEA has been active in recent years in supporting the efforts of CASE in the development of Caithness as a centre of excellence in nuclear decommissioning. UKAEA has undertaken and supported the following series of initiatives to facilitate economic development within the region in a number of key areas, including:

    —  An international Fast Reactor decommissioning Alliance set up by UKAEA, including local firm JGC Engineering and Technical Service, is now using its liquid metal skills gained from this project to bid for work internationally.

    —  UKAEA became the anchor tenant at Forss Science and Technology Park, which unlocked a £6 million investment by private sector.

    —  UKAEA has structured its tender process in order to maximise the potential for local businesses to participate in decommissioning projects.

    —  UKAEA has been heavily involved in the success of test and trials facility at Janetstown which was a catalyst for £7 million investment by CASE and the European Regional Development Fund in new facilities, including the UHI Millennium Institute's Decommissioning and Environmental Remediation Centre.

    —  UKAEA is actively promoting nuclear decommissioning opportunities at Dounreay to business throughout Scotland through close working with HIE and Scottish Enterprise, and DTI initiative to exploit the synergy of skills in the nuclear, oil and gas and renewables industry sectors.


  In summary, UKAEA Dounreay last year recruited its 1,000th engineering apprentice since 1955. This year UKAEA expects to recruit its 1,000th scientific and secretarial trainee. The success of these training programmes in providing an opportunity for young people in the Highlands and Islands, over the last 50 years, is arguably the greatest benefit Dounreay has brought to the area. UKAEA is committed to helping the local community diversify and utilise the opportunity provided by the significant spending profile, brought by decommissioning Dounreay over the next 10 to 15 years, to help encourage the development of the local community away from its historical heavy dependence on Dounreay's activities in the area.


  Dismantling and cleaning up a complex former research and development site like Dounreay produces significant quantities of different types of waste. Some of this waste is radioactive because it has come into contact with radioactive material or been irradiated, and may require special handling to protect workers, the public and the environment. Other wastes, such as demolition rubble and metal, can be dealt with as normal industrial waste and recycled. Correctly categorising and segregating these wastes is integral to a safe and efficient decommissioning programme.

  At Dounreay, there are three main types of solid waste:

    —  Exempt—waste produced in areas where radioactive materials have been handled and which may have traces of radioactivity up to a maximum level similar to that found in jars of coffee. This waste is exempt from the disposal requirements of the Radioactive Substances Act and can be disposed of alongside other industrial waste.

    —  Low Level—waste which is too radioactive to be disposed of to ordinary industrial landfill but is below the level at which special precautions such as thick shielding are required. There are two licensed disposal sites for LLW in the UK—a series of shallow pits at Dounreay, which are now full, and the national facility at Drigg in Cumbria used by all other producers in the UK.

    —  Intermediate-level—mostly long-lived waste which requires special precautions, such as thick shielding, to protect workers and the public. Many years ago at Dounreay, such waste was disposed in a shaft at the site. Today, it is held above ground safely in engineered stores pending a national policy for its long-term management.

  UKAEA are convinced that the long-term strategy for the management of radioactive waste is an urgent requirement for the success of the nuclear decommissioning strategy for the whole of the UK.


  Unlike most other nuclear sites, which dispose of their LLW at the UK national LLW disposal facility at Drigg, in Cumbria, Dounreay has always operated its own authorised LLW disposal facility. This facility consisting of six shallow trenches, has been used over the past 40 years to dispose of around 33,000m3 of Dounreay's LLW.

  As Dounreay's facility is now full, some of Dounreay's current arisings of LLW can now be disposed of at Drigg and an application for Drigg was made to SEPA on 18 April 2002. This application is currently under consideration by SEPA.

  In addition there are two categories of LLW that are not normally disposed of at Drigg and these will have to be stored on an interim basis at Dounreay. The first category does not meet the conditions for acceptance by Drigg and will be stored until it can be disposed of in either a new future suitable UK national repository or under special arrangements with BNFL at Drigg.

  The second category is called Low Active/High volume and is mainly made up of very low level activity but high volume of contaminated soil. The Dounreay site does have the ability for storing this waste for a short amount of time but due to the decommissioning operations it is anticipated that this waste will generated in large amounts in the near future. Therefore UKAEA will have to either construct a new low level waste operations facility or convert an existing building in 2005 for interim storage.

  Dounreay conducted a Best Practicable Environmental Options (BPEO) study for the long term management of both the low active/high volume waste and LLW. This study was subject to a public consultation exercise and UKAEA anticipate that the outcome of this study will be announced in February.


  UKAEA's approach to dealing with ILW is to ensure that all ILW is packaged in a passively safe form in accordance with Nirex requirements, or where there is adequate justification, packaged in an intermediate form suitable for interim storage such that is does not compromise future disposal requirements. All ILW is stored in controlled conditions, which prevents deterioration of the containers and ensures that packages remain in a transportable state for a period consistent with approved NDA planning assumptions. This storage is on an interim basis until a national UK radioactive waste disposal facility becomes available.

  UKAEA does not have a view on what the long term solution for managing the UK's radioactive waste should be. These issues are the responsibility of the Committee of Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM). UKAEA does recognise the urgent national need for a solution and is happy to support CoRWM in its efforts to reach a publicly acceptable solution.


  UKAEA's remit today is to decommission and clean-up sites formerly used to research and develop nuclear fission, and to host UK's contribution to the international research and development of nuclear fusion. Fusing atoms to reproduce the energy that powers the sun and stars offers a safe and environmentally benign alternative to fossil fuels. Recognising the need for new long-term sources of electricity, the UK Government supports the fast track development of fusion, which could lead to full-scale power generation within 30 years. This work is carried out by UKAEA at Culham in England.

18 January 2005