The UK Atomic Energy Authority has had to re-hire senior safety experts from AEA Technology the privatised company spun out of the authority in 1996 to redress serious shortcomings at its Dounreay site on the northern tip of Scotland.
The Health & Safety Executive published a highly critical audit of safety management at Dounreay at the start of September. It concluded that the UKAEA no longer had the competence in this area necessary to meet the terms of its operating licence, and that it was ‘essential for the UKAEA to re-establish effective control of nuclear safety-related activities on the site’.
A UKAEA spokeswoman at Dounreay said: ‘We’ve taken on 10 people [from AEA Technology]’. She said they ranged from shift supervisors to senior managers, and confirmed that they had been re-employed to bolster in-house safety management at the site particularly in respect of the two fast reactors that have now been closed.
The spokeswoman said the move was not a direct response to the HSE audit. She said the authority had been negotiating the transfer of the staff back from AEA over the last six months, following an internal management review carried last year. However, the central criticisms in the HSE audit echoed those made by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate’s site inspector, Dr Tony Walker, in a detailed memorandum in June 1997.
The re-engagement of the AEA personnel is part of a big recruitment drive by the UKAEA to strengthen its in-house expertise. The authority said it is ‘trawling the country’ for engineers, scientists, project managers and supervisors offering salaries from £16,000 to £40,000 and that the number of posts ‘could well run into dozens’.