Memorandum submitted to the Committee
by Julian Walford BSc (Eng), MBA, MIEE
I was born in 1950, qualified as an electrical
engineer in 1972, and have undertaken a number of engineering
and management roles with UKAEA since joining full-time in 1975.
I am currently Head of Finance and Contracts at Dounreay. I have
lived in Caithness on and off since 1955, and my father worked
at Dounreay from its inception then, until his retirement in 1990.
I have two sons, both graduate engineers born in Caithness, but
now working in the South of England. My wife works also at Dounreay.
I am relatively well acquainted with the way
in which Dounreay funding flows to employees, contractors, other
payees and (through inter-site trading)with the rest of
These are my personal views, not those of my
I wish to offer brief evidence on three subjects:
developing a local world-class nuclear
seeking work for the Caithness and
Highland economy; and
wind and marine energy development.
At present there is a significant emphasis on
establishing a decommissioning capability in Caithness. This includes
investment in test and research facilities. While undoubtedly
this is helpful in meeting Dounreay's needs, it is not at all
clear how this translates to an enduring capability based in Caithness.
The very economic factors that demand a local capability make
such difficult to export. Further, the current nuclear licence
structure, whereby UKAEA must employ the key engineers who devise
requirements, and manage the work, represent a barrier to those
same people servicing other sites.
There is a significant drive currently to ensure
that the local economy captures an increasing share of the Dounreay
decommissioning expenditure. In general one observes locally based
businesses developing their manufacturing and service capability,
and therefore being better able to capture this funding stream
either directly, or indirectly (NDA Tier-2 and 3 contractors).
Firms are increasingly establishing local bases, facilitated by
the Forss Business Park. The NDA moving there can only help.
There is a question however about how much work
the Site Licensee Company (SLC) does in-house, and how much is
sub-contracted, and whilst the NDA has addressed the issue (make
or buy decisions), it isn't clear whether they see a large SLC
as a good thing or not.
There is an argument that a diverse range of
firms meeting Dounreay needs is a good way forward, ideally each
serving both Dounreay and increasingly other work-streams from
the local base in due course. Such a business model demands that
the SLC does the minimum in-house, and reduces with time.
The NDA model demands the SLC be owned by a
bidding organisation (which could be a consortium and that consortium
could include UKAEA or BNFL). This is based on US precedent, and
a key approach in the US is to seek from bidders both the decommissioning
performance required and an approach to developing the neighbouring
economy. Such an approach has a place in Caithness, and one could
envisage bidders (particularly private-sector bidders) offering
to invest in their business in this locality, to good advantage.
The key to any such enterprises is synergy with the natural capabilities
of the local market including the skills available.
The local enterprise agency does not seem to
have analysed the requirements or at least there is little published.
There may be merit in further work here.
Wind development is continuing in Caithness
and Sutherland. This is controversial as the developments are
generally being proposed close to habitation (and the shore) where
the electrical infrastructure is available. Personally I support
development both onshore and offshore, but sited sensitively.
There are vast near-barren inland wastes with no population, but
it needs a commitment to provide the grid interconnections from
the 275 kV line which exists for Dounreay, and runs up Strath
Halladale, and upgrade it to double circuit 400 kV providing over
5 GW capacity. Furthermore, decent sized installations should
be builtperhaps a 1,000 windmill array using 5 MW units.
This is feasiblethere is plenty of land.
Apart from the construction benefit, the ongoing
service requirement would assist in supporting the economy. Some
quantification of this would be useful.
Many objections have been made to wind development
on the basis of the cost of replacement power when the wind is
not blowing. I have yet to see proper studies undertaken of the
cost of integrated solutions involving the existing hydro-electric
dams. For example the Loch Shin hydro facility appears to have
a very high storage capacity, and equipped with additional generating
capacity it could use the existing reservoir purely to back-up
Caithness and Sutherland wind farms for the limited periods when
My understanding of the state of development,
is that wave energy is some considerable way off economic feasibility.
In contrast tidal energy is closer to break-even.
The challenge is to manufacture and install devices and one expects
unit prices to fall with manufacturing development, and operating
experience. Unlike wind energy where continental firms now have
the bulk of the market, UK universities seem ahead, including
the nearestRobert Gordon in Aberdeen.
Caithness and Orkney are in a zone where there
are massive tidal resources, (caused by the interaction of the
North Sea and Atlantic basin tidal resonances) which are entirely
predictable (if not steady) and can be matched with others elsewhere
around the UK coast to provide a constant generation capability
over the grid.
Again electricity grid interconnections are
Clearly there is an opportunity here to establish
Caithness manufacturing and testing of these devices. This has
synergy with the existing manufacturing that supports Dounreay,
though the scale is much increased. Perhaps the decommissioning
test facilities could also be used.
It should be noted that facilities at Wester
and Castletown have manufactured oil pipe stringers and domestic
white goods (freezers, etc). Low wage costs, low land and housing
costs make manufacturing feasible.
Could the Dounreay Tier-1 bidders contribute
The renewables energy programme has synergies
with the ongoing requirements at Dounreay, and the capabilities
of the locality. There are opportunities to manage the development
of both to maintain the local economy.
11 January 2005