The new team charged with cleaning up the Dounreay nuclear site, including removal of its famous dome, has said the work will be completed within 15 years – saving the taxpayer £1 billion.

Babcock Dounreay Partnership (BDP), said it aims to finish decommissioning, demolition and clean-up of the landmark on the Caithness coast between 2022 and 2025.

All that will be left at the site will be the nuclear waste stores and pits will be fenced off for 300 years.

Loading article content

BDP officially took ownership of Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd (DRSL) yesterday, the site licence company created out of Dounreay's former operator the UK Atomic Energy Authority, to take charge of decommissioning.

In November, it was announced the UK-US BDP consortium had beat an Amec-led bid to take over DSRL, with a key criteria being that bids should accelerate the previous 2038 closure date by at least six years and cost no more than £150 million a year.

However, BDP's bid to complete the programme by up to 16 years earlier than the 2038 deadline, thereby reducing project costs by well in excess of £1bn, was an even more ambitious target.

It will use the DSRL's 950 staff and supply chain to clean up and demolish the remainder of the site.

Roger Hardy, managing director of DSRL, said: "We will be setting new standards for decommissioning delivery, safety and environmental protection. We want to establish Dounreay as the European reference site for nuclear decommissioning and site closure."

Scottish Secretary Michael Moore MP said: "Dounreay was a beacon of engineering excellence in its operating days.

"It is now a world centre of excellence in decommissioning skills."

Scottish Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said: "The Scottish Government is committed to cleaning up the nuclear legacy it has inherited. Today's announcement is good news as it will allow Dounreay to enter its final decommissioning phase. It also provides investment in the local area which will secure jobs for many skilled workers and I am confident that Dounreay's highly skilled workforce can show the world how to successfully turn a complex nuclear site into a safe, secure and clean state."

The site was established in 1955, and the first reactor achieved criticality in May 1958.