The nuclear industry in Caithness today announced a charter to improve the employment prospects of workers whose jobs currently depend on decommissioning Dounreay.
It sets out how the three organisations will work together to deliver the nuclear industry’s contribution to the regeneration of the North Highlands.
The NDA spends about £150 million a year on work to clean up and close down Dounreay. About £80 million of this goes into the local economy in salaries, contracts and purchases.
This is expected to decline as more of the site is decommissioned and up to 2000 jobs become redundant.
In 2007 the NDA, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Highland Council and Scottish Government formed the Caithness and North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership to drive the area’s economic transition.
The NDA pledged almost £4m last year to support local business development in preparation for the industry’s exit from Caithness.
Today’s announcement will strengthen the NDA’s contribution through greater collaboration with contractor Babcock and its subsidiary site licence company DSRL.
"The work being carried out in this area is groundbreaking for the NDA,” said its chief executive Tony Fountain.
“We listened to stakeholders when they said that they wanted to see the nuclear industry taking a more ‘joined-up’ approach to socio economics. This agreement ensures we make best use of our combined resources to focus on delivering socio economic initiatives quickly and effectively.”
Babcock and its predecessor companies have provided jobs at Dounreay for many years. Martin Austick, a non-executive director, said: “We are now looking forward to more formally broadening this support to the wider Caithness community and working alongside the other partners to help deliver a thriving and sustainable future for the area."
DSRL managing director Simon Middlemas said: “This is the nuclear industry coming together as one to knock down this site in a way that helps the community to rebuild for the future.”
Trade unions at DSRL say socio-economics is a major issue in decommissioning. They welcomed the charter.
"This type of partnership should also ensure that regardless of which consortia is successful in winning the new parent body contract for the site licence company, they will be committed to honour this agreement," said Davie Alexander, chair of the joint TU group.
John Thurso, the area’s MP who chaired a strategy group that paved the way for the regeneration partnership, said: "It’s vital that the decommissioning spend helps the local economy make the transition to new jobs and businesses. This is an important step towards that goal which I warmly welcome."
Eann Sinclair, programme manager at Caithness and North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership, welcomed the charter, which will help the industry align its efforts to the wider economic transition plan.