Memorandum submitted to the Committee
by Alan J Scott MIMechE, CEng
My name is Alan Scott and I currently work as
an engineer for an international company providing nuclear decommissioning
services at Dounreay. I have been a resident in Caithness since
moving up from Central Scotland following graduation and first
joined the UKAEA at Dounreay 20 years ago. I would like to express
my own opinions with respect to the above issue and hope that
you may consider my thoughts as part of the inquiry. Being completely
unfamiliar with Parliamentary Committee protocol, and particularly
the requirement for written evidence, I am unsure of the relevance
(if any) of my thoughts. Being deeply concerned about the future
social and economic wellbeing of Caithness and Sutherland following
the decommissioning of Dounreay, however, I feel compelled to
submit this short note for your consideration.
Focusing on one of the strands of the inquiry:
(i) (specifically for the Caithness
region)The future job prospects for people currently employed
at Dounreay following completion of decommissioning.
A FUTURE BASED
The decommissioning of Dounreay represents a
unique, interesting challenge for the current workforce, and indeed
makes efficient use of the skills and expertise which have been
developed since the 1950's. Unfortunately the exportation of these
skills such that "we can decommission the rest of the world
once we've finished Dounreay" is the message being preached
by both local and visiting senior politicians and also by some
of the current management. This view is sadly misleading and without
If you were to look around the world to see
who actually completes the decommissioning of nuclear facilities,
you will find that the vast majority of the work is completed
using nationals of the country involved, and usually by people
who operated the plant. In this respect Dounreay is no different
from the rest of the world. Whereas there is undoubtedly a future
international market for the transfer of knowledge gained through
the completion of nuclear decommissioning at Dounreay, this market
is limited largely to engineering and scientific professionals.
Although Dounreay will continue to support some
form of work from now until 2036, the amount of work will rapidly
drop off during this time. This shortage of work will at best
only be partially compensated by emergent work in the national
and international nuclear decommissioning market. What we require
urgently is an alternative source of work for the skilled workforce
whose available work will decline rapidly from this point onwards
and will terminate on the completion of decommissioning at Dounreay.
As an alternative and totally viable solution
to the problem, I believe that we should focus on what the county
has to offer and then try to fit that in with what the country
requires. In terms of the former I refer to Caithness, and in
terms of the latter I refer primarily to Scotland but also to
the UK. Hence my simple "needs analysis" exercise:
1. An energy policy which goes beyond the
"end of noses" limit currently adopted and looks forward
several decades at least.
2. A balanced energy policy which adequately
addresses predicted future energy requirements, whilst recognising
current fears for the global environment.
3. An energy policy, which at the very least
will permit Scotland to keep pace with other industrialised nations,
and at best will enable us to take the lead.
4. To retain a pool of suitable qualified
and skilled resources based in Scotland who are able to respond
to the challenge of ensuring that the countries present and future
energy requirements are fully satisfied.
1. A readily available supply of engineers,
scientists and technicians currently supporting work at Dounreay
with an excellent level and proven range of skills.
2. A fully established and serviced industrial
site in the form of Dounreay.
3. A community highly tolerant of innovation
and uniquely pro-nuclear.
4. Excellent further education establishments
(UHI-North Highland College etc).
5. Access to an abundant supply of renewable
energy resources (wind, waves, solar).
Unfortunately and uniquely, Caithness depends
on one source of employment to sustain the current levels of population
and socio-economic wellbeing ie Dounreay. Whilst the ideal solution
would be to diversify such that all the eggs were no longer in
the one basket, I believe that the only solution is to create
a replacement industrial hub in the county which will also serve
the country in the long term. In the same way that Caithness,
in the form of Dounreay, was chosen in the late 1950s as the R&D
centre for what at that time was the energy source of the future,
so it can be utilised in a similar way to service our current
short and long term energy requirements.
We surely cannot ignore recent attention focussed
on the requirement to invest in energy sources for the future,
and specifically reliable sources which can provide stable base
load capacity. This base load is required irrespective of whether
the wind is blowing, or whether we remain on friendly terms with
other countries who we are growing increasingly reliant on for
supplies of oil and gas. We cannot also ignore recent statements
from Professor James Lovelock, much respected guru of the green
movement, who warned that nuclear energy is the only way to avert
Whilst we bury our heads in the sand and generate
political reasons for not dealing with the issues of nuclear waste
and nuclear power, largely under the guise of technical reasons,
other countries forge ahead. Without going into detail on the
significant programmes of investment in the development of nuclear
power around the world, examples of what Finland, South Africa,
France and the USA are doing are of worthy of note. It is also
interesting to note that, at a time when interest in nuclear power
is being rekindled globally, the UK remains unique in as much
as it is the only country amongst the industrialised world which
does not have a national nuclear laboratory, nor indeed a national
organisation set up to develop energy sources for the future.
It is indeed ironic that the type of reactor
attracting international interest as a future generation of reactor
design is the fast reactor ie the type of technology which Dounreay
led in world in, developed by Scottish engineers and scientists,
prior to the programme being terminated in 1994. Since then the
French, Japanese, and Chinese have taken the lead in developments
of the fast reactor.
So, if I may return to Scotland's needs, Caithness's
attributes and put them into the context of the current decommissioning
plan for Dounreay, my proposed solution to prevent the decommissioning
of the County is:
That a national centre be set up in Caithness,
whose remit will be the development of safe and secure energy
sources for the future. The centre would complete research and
development in both nuclear and renewable technologies with respect
to security of energy supply and the Kyoto targets for reducing
carbon emissions. It would provide a unique opportunity to investigate
a balanced approach to energy supply with nuclear and non-nuclear
technologies working together. In order to maintain a supply of
personnel fully conversant with the engineering and operational
requirements of nuclear reactors, and to develop a nuclear reactor
system which will serve the needs of the country in the future,
the centre would be used to site a fully operational reactor.
The centre would also support work being done globally at present
with respect to the future use of hydrogen as a fuel, such a centre
would also be used to investigate how hydrogen could be both generated,
transported and utilised in the future as a safe and "clean"
fuel in Scotland.
I believe that such a development, situated
either adjacent to, or on the existing serviced site at Dounreay
would offer a unique chance to salvage something from the decommissioning
of the site, and the only chance to stave off the mass depopulation
of the area. Such a centre could be developed in parallel with,
but separately from, the current operation to decommission the
Such a development would have potential to establish
our country at the forefront of future energy supply technology
and for us to be recognised as a forward looking nation. It may
even help us recover Scotland's proud reputation for excellence
in the field of engineering and scientific achievements. Whilst
other countries around the world actively invest in energy technologies
for the future, we appear to sit back inactively and contemplate
at length the impact of impending energy shortages, and global
warming. An energy development centre in Caithness offers a unique
chance to invest in the skills developed in the Highlands at Dounreay,
such that the country's future energy supplies can provide a stable
base for sustained economic growth.
I apologise for the lack of brevity in this
note, and hope that you find the content of some relevance in
your inquiry. What is of no benefit to anyone is the experience
of a second wave of Highland Clearances in Caithness and Sutherland,
which will surely follow the completion of decommissioning at
Dounreay, should work on an alternative major source of employment
not be initiated as a matter of urgency.
17 January 2005