A hundred people have found work on the largest manufacturing job ever undertaken in the Highlands for Dounreay.
They are turning more than 300 tonnes of steel into a network of ducts and chambers that will form the ventilation system needed to decommission more than a dozen of the most hazardous facilities at the site.
Steel plates delivered from Corus at Sheffield are being rolled at sites at Harpsdale and Janetstown in Caithness and welded into shape.
The finished parts are due to begin arriving at Dounreay in October, with up to 150 lorry-loads expected by the end of the year.
It is expected to take another nine months to install the fans, electrical infrastructure, supports, ducts, chambers and two 30m-high stacks.
The new system will extract filtered air from some of the most hazardous facilities in the Fuel Cycle Area – the complex of buildings that includes old reprocessing plants, chemical works, waste and fuel stores.
The existing ventilation system serving these facilities dates from the 1950s and is incapable of supporting the phased decommissioning of this area.
The old system, including the 55m high stack that dominates the skyline in this area of the site, will be switched off and sealed pending its clean-out and demolition.
“The engineers who designed the ventilation system in the 1950s were more concerned with the operation of these facilities than their decommissioning,” explained project manager Iain Lyall.
“Decommissioning old fuel and waste plants to today’s standards needs a modern ventilation system that will give greater protection to both the workforce and the environment.
“A local company, JGC Engineering and Technical Services, won the contract to fabricate and install the new services after a competitive tendering exercise through the European Journal, and the local supply chain has picked up most of the sub-contract opportunities as well.”
JGC’s fabrication workshops at Harpsdale and Janetstown are a hive of activity on the £7.4 million contract. At the site, meanwhile, excavators are busy installing foundations to support the new structure.
JGC commercial director Tim O’Brien said: “This is the largest manufacturing contract ever won at Dounreay by a company in the Highlands. The specification laid down for this contract is among the most demanding there is, so it is a great advert for the skills and craftsmanship here in Caithness.”
Sub-contractors to JGC are Arch Henderson and Partners, M. M. Miller, Budge Formwork, Studsvik and Controlmax.