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Craig Anderson reports
"An historic slide in standards mean things could only have got better"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 7 March, 2000, 13:58 GMT
Dounreay safety progress praised
Dounreay
Management say they have adhered to targets
A report has praised management at Dounreay, saying they have "turned the tanker round" in improving safety at the Caithness nuclear plant.

However, the House of Commons Trade and Industry Committee warns that much still needs to be done.

The report relates to an investigation into the plant launched in 1997 after a damning safety inspection.

There were also concerns about the decision to accept delivery of a consignment of nuclear material from Georgia and over an incident in May 1998 when outside contractors damaged an electrical cable, cutting off power to the site's fuel cycle area.

'Progress made'

The report said: "Progress is being made by the UK Atomic Energy Authority in changing the ethos at Dounreay.

"As Mr (Laurence) Williams of the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate said to us in evidence 'the tanker is turning'."

The committee praised the efforts made by UKAEA's chief executive Dr John McKeown but added that there was still a great deal to be done.

Plant worker
The "safety culture" is improving, say MPs
Responding to the report, Dr McKeown, said: "This may be seen as a milestone, recognising that although much work remains to be done, Dounreay has turned the corner.

"We are developing world class skills and expertise in decommissioning and environmental restoration at Dounreay.

"UKAEA published its response to the HSE/SEPA Audit in November 1998. We promised that we would carry out the work to an agreed timescale and we have done what we have said."

Lorraine Mann, one of the plant's main critics, agreed with the committee's verdict, but said that although Dounreay may have stopped getting worse, "it was not yet travelling in the right direction".

Safety audit

Of 142 recommendations made by the Health and Safety Executive and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency following a safety audit in 1998, 51 had now been completely dealt with and most of the others were on the way to completion, the report states.

There was disappointment that back-up generators which would prevent a repeat of the 1998 power cut would not be installed until June.

There was also concern over the management of irradiated fast reactor fuel, of which 13 tonnes remained at Dounreay.

The committee strongly recommended an early decision from the UK Government on whether the fuel will be reprocessed in new facilities at Dounreay or sent to the BNFL site at Sellafield in Cumbria.

The committee called for Dounreay's management to pursue a path of greater openness in order to increase public confidence in safety at the plant.

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See also:

28 Feb 00 |  Scotland
Radioactive waste clean-up
11 Feb 00 |  Scotland
AEA faces Dounreay charges
29 Dec 99 |  Scotland
Santa's nuclear waste grotto
28 Dec 99 |  Scotland
Nuclear plant's weapons spin-off
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