A new community body launched in the north Highlands signals another step towards the closure of the former nuclear research site at Dounreay.
The Caithness and North Sutherland Fund will receive £4 million over the next decade from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to help the area’s economy adjust to the shutdown.
The payment by the NDA is part of a project to clear up to 240,000 tonnes of radioactive waste from the site of Britain’s 20th century experiment with fast reactors.
The money will go towards projects that can sustain the social and economic fabric of the north Highlands after Dounreay has been demolished.
A board of directors drawn from members of the Highland Council and the local community will oversee the allocation of funds.
Mark Lesinksi, NDA executive director for delivery, attended the launch of the fund and signed an operating agreement that governs how the money will be used.
He said: "We see the community benefit fund as an important part of the NDA’s wider contribution to the local area that can help out community-led projects. Caithness and north Sutherland is a priority area for the NDA. In addition to the fund, we will continue to support projects in the regeneration programme that aim to bring new jobs to the area."
The £4m deal is part of a £100 million investment by the NDA in a project to safely dispose of low-level radioactive waste from the decommissioning of the site.
Cleaning out and dismantling the site is expected to produce up to 240,000 tonnes of LLW.
Work is scheduled to begin in November on the construction of the first of up to six shallow vaults on land next to the site.
The start of work by contractor GRAHAM will release an initial payment of £1 million to the fund from the NDA.
The first vault is expected to be ready in 2014 when, subject to regulatory consent, the first of the contaminated debris will be mixed with concrete in containers and grouted into place.
This will trigger another payment of £300,000 each year until 2023.
Phillip Colville, finance director with site closure contractor DSRL, also attended the launch of the fund.
“It’s good news for both the environment and the economy," he said. "The disposal site provides a safe long-term home for the legacy of low-active radioactive waste at Dounreay and provides the community with a cash flow that can help to sustain it beyond the closure of the site.”
Leo Martin, director at GRAHAM, said: “The GRAHAM team is on site at Dounreay engaging in ground excavation and preparatory works, and design of the new low level waste facility is well under way. This is an important contract for GRAHAM and the team is determined to deliver an excellent facility for DSRL and have a positive impact on Caithness and the local community.”