Companies supplying the clean-up and closure of the nuclear site at Dounreay are being urged to think now about the prospects for their staff when the nuclear industry has left Caithness.
Spending on the shutdown programme has peaked at £150 million a year and is expected to begin declining in the next decade or so as more of the redundant plant is made safe.
About two-thirds of the budget, £100 million, goes to sub-contractors who employ upwards of 1000 people on contracts at or near the nuclear site.
Speaking at the opening of Scotland’s biggest one-day event for the decommissioning supply sector, the engineer in charge of shutting down the site said every sub-contractor had a responsibility to help their staff make the transition.
“We cannot decommission this site without thinking about what’s going to happen to my staff, to your staff that live in this area and operate on site. We’ve got to think about their future,” said Simon Middlemas, managing director of Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd, which employs over 900.
The site licence company is running programmes to help staff map out their future careers and gain the skills needed to find work after decommissioning, while a team is working with potential inward investors to match up their staff needs with the projected rundown of the Dounreay workforce.
Later this month, Caithness Chamber of Commerce will launch a three-year programme costing £2.2m to help local businesses make the transition to new markets. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is putting in £1.1m.
“We’re not necessarily going to be investing in those businesses out there; we are trying to make them ready to do it. If you’ve got people on site I’d encourage you to do exactly the same. It is important.
“You’ve got some very clever people on this site and so have I. If we don’t do something with these people, they will notice if the area’s declining. As the work goes down, the money goes down, the housing isn’t quite as good, the hospital shuts and they disappear long before this site is finished. So you need to think for the future.
“On a personal note, I live in this area and I want to make sure that doesn’t happen, so we need the economy of Caithness to be at least as good as it is today and stable, if not improving and I would encourage you to help in that.”
More than 40 local, national and international companies took part in the one-day Technology and Innovation Exhibition staged in a marquee adjacent to the site. The annual event is in its 10th year at Dounreay.
VIDEO: Simon Middlemas opens the Technology and Innovation Exhibition 2011