Management at Dounreay are facing the challenge of how to accommodate additional work from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) whilst maintaining the same annual spend, the same Interim End State – and most importantly, the same priority on working safely and securely that the site is renowned for.
The additional work has arisen because activities that were not sufficiently developed by the NDA at the time the competition was run in 2012 have now reached a state of maturity that allows them to be added to the existing programme of work.
Dounreay Managing Director Mark Rouse stressed that this was not happening because of issues with delivery of the current contract and was expected to happen at some point during the first few years; in many ways it is normal business for a complex project of this nature.
“We should stress that the NDA have not cut our budget, and indeed have been able to increase our budget for this current year by £10m to help the situation,” he said.
“The fact is that the schedule of work is currently front end loaded – and so is the additional work, and that means some re-sequencing is necessary. Some of the early work which could always have been done later had we chosen to do so will now be moved to free up time and funds to complete the additional tasks.”
Work is going on to flesh out a number of possible scenarios that fit within the site’s annual budget and time scale, so that the site’s Interim End State will still be achieved by 2023-2025.
These scenarios will be presented to the NDA and Cavendish Dounreay Partnership’s parent body companies at meetings in early February. It is intended that decisions will therefore be made in February, but additional work will continue in parallel as the necessary detail is developed.
“One thing that is clear already is that this additional work will mean the run-down in numbers that we have been forecasting to start in 5-6 years will move out by a number of years, which is good news,” said Mark.
Staff are being kept informed of progress through weekly bulletins, and trade unions, the site’s regulators, the Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, are also being regularly briefed.
However, Mark also acknowledged that there is a great deal of talk about the potential changes and that could have implications for day-to-day operations.
“We understand that changes of this nature cause concern because of the temporary uncertainty they introduce. We have stressed to all those working at Dounreay that during this period they must maintain their focus on the safety of the work that they do – and that the management team continue to support them in this,” said Mark.
“Decisions about the details of the re-sequencing have not yet been made, but staff can rest assured that they will be the first to be informed when they are.”