The Government this week approved a plan to clean up the shaft full of radioactive waste at Dounreay on the northern tip of Scotland the UK’s dirtiest nuclear decommissioning task at a cost of up to £355m.
The project, which will also involve retrieving and treating waste from the wet silo at Dounreay, will create several hundred jobs over 25 years, with a peak workforce of up to 400 during the construction of new waste storage facilities.
The UK Atomic Energy Authority, which operates the Dounreay site, said the retrieval would employ about 100 workers. There would be significant secondary employment opportunities for local engineering, support and service industries.
Energy minister John Battle said in a parliamentary written answer on Tuesday that the Government had accepted the UKAEA’s recommendation that waste in the 65.4m-deep vertical shaft which includes pieces of spent nuclear fuel should be retrieved for treatment and storage.
‘It is now clear that the shaft does not provide standards of waste disposal that are acceptable today, and that retrieval is the best practicable environmental option,’ Battle said.
He said engineering studies conducted by the UKAEA had shown this approach to be technically feasible. He said that the plan had been approved by the appropriate regulatory authorities.
At this stage of a project expected to take 25 years to complete, Battle said there were inevitably ‘significant uncertainties’ about the cost, but that UKAEA estimates suggested that the total would be between £215m £355m, which would be met from public funds.