Home   News   Article

Dounreay decommissioning date ‘never achievable’ says Caithness councillor

By Gordon Calder

Register for free to read more of the latest local news. It's easy and will only take a moment.

Click here to sign up to our free newsletters!
Decommissioning of the Dounreay site is now expected tp take until the 2070s.
Decommissioning of the Dounreay site is now expected tp take until the 2070s.

CAITHNESS has been misled for the past 20 years over the timescale for the decommissioning of Dounreay.

The work was due to be completed by 2033 but that target was "never technically practicable" and "never achievable", according to Struan Mackie, the chairman of the Dounreay Stakeholder Group (DSG).

Mr Mackie, a Thurso and Northwest Caithness Highland councillor, said: "We all know that the publicised dates, the milestones communicated to our community, to our politicians and to our supply chain for the last two decades have not been founded in reality.

“The new Lifetime Plan for Dounreay says the decommissioning at the site will continue until the 2070s on ‘a rolling 10-year strategy’.

"I believe that when the dust settles, the dates originally published by the UKAEA (the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority) on the plant’s shut-down will ring as true today as they did in the mid-1990’s. Dounreay is a complex site. It will take many decades to safely decommission."

Speaking at last week's annual general meeting of the DSG, he stated: "Caithness has been misled by the promises presented under the PBO (Parent Body Organisation) – promises that were enthusiastically endorsed by successive governments, sponsor departments, regulators and agencies.

“We were sold a promise of decommissioning at a speed never possible, never technically practicable.

“The dates that entered the public domain were never achievable, and we have been sold a false economy.

"Hundreds of millions of pounds – taxpayers’ money – that should have been invested in our community, into frontline decommissioning across the nuclear estate, into socio-economics and building resilience in our nuclear communities was funnelled into a failed experiment to the detriment of our community and to the nuclear industry, and our workforce who, throughout it all, continued to do their jobs and work."

Mr Mackie said the community will have to live with the consequences for many years and "potentially decades to come."

He believes the new Lifetime Plan, which estimates the decommissioning work continuing for around 50 years and which was unveiled last week, "will lead us into real dates, real activity and real expectations."

Struan Mackie.
Struan Mackie.

Mr Mackie welcomed the announcement at that time and at last week’s meeting: "As hard as it might be to do, as a community, we need to draw a line under the past, the mistakes the false-promises and the distrust. We now need to find a new baseline; to find a way for Dounreay and the decommissioning mission to be outward facing with a plan that is understood by our community, embraced by our supply chain and providing inspiration and opportunity for our people."

As reported in last Friday's Groat, Dounreay says 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."

A spokesperson said: "This plan gives us a credible and reliable programme of work that will be delivered through a rolling 10-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."

Meanwhile, unions at Dounreay are being balloted for strike action over a long-running pay dispute. Workers at the site previously told the Groat that staff are demoralised and feel management is not listening to them.

Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More