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New jobs coming on stream at Dounreay

Caithness Courier

Thirty-five new jobs are coming on stream at Dounreay to help speed up the work to decommission the former fast reactor complex.

Dounreay site licence company (DSRL) has begun the process to hire the staff to start work next month to help meet its deadline of having the cluster of former fuel and waste plants levelled by September 2023.

The new labour is needed to service extra work over the next 12 months and complete it within the designated timescale. It is believed more contract jobs are likely to be created in the course of 2013.

DSRL spokeswoman Sue Thompson said the jobs would be on a short-term basis but are essential to keep its timetable on track.

"We will be looking to create around 35 jobs after the new year throughout all areas of the workforce," she said.

"These jobs will be filled through existing contractors taking on operators. These opportunities have arisen as we have extra work coming up and as work increases there will be people hired, but as work drops back we will be decreasing our workforce - it ebbs and flows to meet our needs."

The site licence company has also revealed that between 10 and 20 of its posts are being earmarked for voluntary early redundancy after the new year.

Mrs Thompson said this has been known since April when Babcock Dounreay Partnership (BDP), DSRL's parent company, won the contract to manage the remainder of the site's clean-up.

She said the current moves on the job front are an attempt to re-balance the skills profile to better suit the needs of delivering the project on time.

Dounreay Stakeholder Group chairman Bob Earnshaw welcomed the move to create the 35 jobs. Despite being short term, he said any increase in employment is encouraging.

"Any announcement which involves the creation of jobs in Caithness has to be welcomed," he said.

"Despite the jobs being offered on a short-term basis, it is still good news - and long may this continue.

"Everyone realises that as the decommissioning process continues, there will be a gradual rundown of staff at the site but I hope any skills that are gained during this employment can be useful when searching for future posts."

BDP, an anglo-American consortium, took over responsibility for the site eight months ago after its £1.6 billion bid was accepted by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, which owns and oversees the decommissioning of all of the UK's redundant civil reactor sites. Its bid is understood to have been £800 million lower than the other bidder, Caithness Solutions.

At a meeting of the Dounreay Stakeholder Group in Thurso in May, DSRL managing director Roger Hardy announced the end date for the project as September 14, 2023.

By then all redundant facilities need to be flattened and the waste sorted, segregated and made safe for the long term.

The site is currently involved in a number of major projects, including the construction of a low-active waste dump which is being carried out by the Irish construction firm Grahams.

It has also applied for planning permission to carry out the world's deepest nuclear clean up - to retrieve highly active nuclear waste and toxic chemical waste from a shaft 65 metres deep, and a vault nine metres deep.