Taxpayers get £30m Dounreay safety bill

The UK Atomic Energy Authority will have to spend at least £30m of taxpayers’ money over the next three years on safety improvements at its Dounreay site on the northern tip of Scotland. The UKAEA revealed on Monday that this would be the minimum cost of an action plan drawn up in response to a […]

The UK Atomic Energy Authority will have to spend at least £30m of taxpayers’ money over the next three years on safety improvements at its Dounreay site on the northern tip of Scotland.

The UKAEA revealed on Monday that this would be the minimum cost of an action plan drawn up in response to a highly critical safety audit by English and Scottish regulators in the summer. It included 142 separate recommendations.

The authority said its ‘best initial estimate’ was that implementation of the plan would ‘require additional funding of at least £30m over the next three years’.

It added that ministers had already made a commitment to fund work to meet the recommendations of the Health & Safety Executive and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency.

Much of the expenditure will go on hiring the necessary staff. A leading criticism in the audit was that the UKAEA had contracted out so many functions that it no longer possessed the in-house expertise to meet the conditions of its site licence.

The organisation will consequently recruit between 50 and 100 staff, ranging from supervisors to senior managers, to oversee the remedial programme.

It has already re-recruited members of the 13-strong senior management team at Dounreay so that only one now works for an outside contractor. It has also created a further six senior posts.

The UKAEA said delivering the action plan to schedule will depend on its ‘success in recruiting suitably qualified and experienced staff to undertake the work’. It warned that it will be some months until it knows how many suitable candidates it can attract.

Failure to recruit, retrain and retain sufficient staff will mean the planned timescales might have to be ‘significantly extended’, the UKAEA added.

The success of the hiring campaign will also require the organisation to promote the decommissioning work at Dounreay as an exciting challenge and ‘do more to counter the negative image of the site’.