Timescale outlined for Dounreay shaft work
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WORK to retrieve the radioactive waste from the Dounreay shaft is expected to get under way in three to four years' time.
That was the timescale identified by operations director Steve Beckitt when he spoke at the latest meeting of the Dounreay Stakeholders Group (DSG) in Thurso. Preparatory and construction work have to be carried out before the waste can be removed.
"It will be three to four years before we start the retrieval process," he said.
The shaft, which is more than 200 feet below ground, was built in the 1950s and was used to dump nuclear waste from 1959 until an explosion in 1977 ended the practice.
The contract to clear out the shaft is one of six worth up to an estimated £400 million which were announced earlier this year as part of the decommissioning of the site. They also include removing radioactive waste disposed in the silo.
Mr Beckitt also told the meeting that "a lot of progress" has been made in hazard reduction at the site, including work at the high active cells and the intermediate waste pits. "It is taking shape," he said.
He pointed out that eight new apprentices have been recruited at the site. This was described as "a positive move" by Dounreay trade union representative John Deighan.
Gillian Coghill, the chairwoman of the Buldoo Residents Group, was also pleased to hear about the new apprentices.
She said: "It is good to hear young people are being taken on as they will get the skills they will need to move on as they will have to do at some time in the future."
Mr Deighan asked how many people are employed at the site at present and was told by Mr Beckitt that the number is around 1400 between Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd and contractors.
"That figure can vary with the ebb and flow of contracts," he explained.
The operations director also pointed out that apprentices will be recruited "over the next few years".
He added: "We will need young people to come through the site for the next 10 to 15 years."
Later, Superintendent Andy Peden of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary said four new recruits will be starting work at the site – two in October and two in November.
"We will be at Dounreay for many years to come. We are a good employer and look after our people, " he said.
Highland councillor, Struan Mackie said the constabulary's recruitment site promoted the area "in a fantastic way".
"I was very impressed by it," he said.
Gillian Coghill also praised the site and said the officers seem "happy in their job and their environment, and that is very positive."
"It is credit to the way it is being run," she added.