News story

Dounreay welcomes decision to select Sutherland for satellite launch station development

Dounreay Site Restoration Limited (DSRL) and its parent company Cavendish Dounreay Partnership (CDP) have welcomed a decision by UK agencies to select a site in Sutherland for development as a satellite launch station.

Artist's impression of the vertical launch site at the Moine.
Photo courtesy of Perfect Circle PV

Both companies invested resources in the proposal as part of the nuclear industry’s commitment to help identify and develop new job opportunities that can sustain the area’s economy beyond the closure of Dounreay.

Dounreay is Europe’s most ambitious nuclear site closure project and the strength of its engineering, scientific and programme skills base formed an important part of the case to locate the UK vertical launch facility at Melness, 40 miles west of the site on the north coast of Scotland.

Monday’s announcement by UK Government Business Secretary Greg Clark is expected to lead to a £20 million investment in the development of the site, creating or sustaining an estimated 400 jobs.

“Decommissioning a complex nuclear site like Dounreay is about more than getting it into a state that is safe for future generations – it is also about securing the social and economic prosperity of future generations,” said Simon Bowen, chair of CDP.

“That is why the nuclear industry – ourselves, our site licence company and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority – work so closely together to support the socio-economic priorities identified by the community and captured in the Caithness and North Sutherland Regeneration Plan. The UK vertical launch facility is a key priority, with the potential to deliver high-value employment and supply chain opportunities, and I am delighted we have been able to help get the project to this stage through a combination of professional and financial support.”

Simon Middlemas, a former executive of Cavendish Nuclear and managing director of DSRL until 2012, will continue his consultancy support to the project, providing specialist support in areas such as licensing, regulation and programme management. June Love, socio-economics manager at DSRL, will also continue to provide support as part of a secondment to regional development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

Charlotte Wright, chief executive of HIE, said: “The establishment of the UK’s first spaceport in the Highlands and Islands is a fantastic opportunity for the region, and for Scotland.”

HIE area manager Roy Kirk said: “We are very grateful for the support of Dounreay and CDP staff, particularly June and Simon, in helping us moving this project forward to the point of success.”

DSRL is the site licence company at Dounreay, employing more than a thousand highly-skilled staff on Europe’s most complex nuclear site closure project, with a similar number in the supply chain. The permanent site workforce is expected to reduce to a few tens of people by 2030-33 when the site is made safe for future generations.

“Every single one of us here at Dounreay recognises the importance of seizing opportunities like these to create new job opportunities, not just for this generation but the one that follows when Dounreay is gone,” said Phil Craig, managing director of DSRL.

“Our skillsets in engineering, environmental science, programme management and a range of technical disciplines are easily transferrable to industries such as the space sector and I am committed to working closely with the developer and operator to make the most of this amazing opportunity for our people.”

Published 17 July 2018