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Scottish Minister steps inside country’s biggest nuclear clean-up

Scottish Government Minister Richard Lochhead today visited Dounreay to see for himself how waste from the shutdown and clean-up of Scotland’s biggest nuclear site is being managed.

The fact-finding visit took him inside the site’s fuel cycle area to witness the dismantling of plants that once supported Britain’s nuclear research programme.

Decommissioning of these facilities between now and 2025 is expected to result in up to 175,000 cubic metres of low-level radioactive waste and almost 15,000 cubic metres of intermediate-level radioactive waste.

Mr Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, visited plants that are processing this waste and getting it into a form that is safe for long-term storage or disposal.

He also visited the shaft, an historic waste disposal site for intermediate-level waste that will be emptied as part of the site clean-up, and was updated on plans to begin clearing particles from the most affected area of seabed near Dounreay.

Mr Lochhead was accompanied by Stephen Henwood, chairman of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. The NDA owns Dounreay and funds its clean-up.

Later, the Minister met community representatives in Thurso where he was briefed on progress to regenerate the local economy. A key feature is the development of a new power station harnessing the tidal energy of the Pentland Firth.

Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd managing director Simon Middlemas, who hosted the visit, said: “Turning the historic collection of redundant nuclear research facilities at Dounreay into conditioned waste that is safe for future generations is one of the most demanding clean-up projects in the nuclear industry today, so I was delighted to be able to show the progress we are making.

“Equally, having seen the efforts we are making to close down one industry, it was important that the Minister saw the efforts being made by Highlands and Islands Enterprise and others to generate new industry that can sustain the area in the longer term, particular the exciting opportunities in tidal energy that the site is supporting.”