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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 September 2007, 11:59 GMT 12:59 UK
Hotel proposal for Dounreay dome
Dounreay with cows in the foreground
The dome has been nicknamed the golf ball by local people
The iconic white dome of the Dounreay nuclear plant could be turned into a hotel under proposals put forward by the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA).

The golf ball, as it is known locally, faces being demolished as part of the 2.9bn decommissioning project at the Caithness site.

However, the UKAEA said it would consider keeping the dome intact if a viable alternative could be found.

It has invited site managers to draw up a list of possible uses for the dome.

James Gunn, a senior technical officer at Dounreay, was tasked with coming up with ideas and drafted a number of suggestions.

We will be getting professional consultants in next year to look at the ideas a bit more carefully
James Gunn
UKAEA technical officer

These included an exhibition and conference centre, leisure centre, hotel and nightclub, a space observatory and a nuclear museum.

Mr Gunn said: "There is some controversy about whether we keep the dome or not, but if we do, these are the sort of uses we are considering.

"We will be getting professional consultants in next year to look at the ideas a bit more carefully.

"We won't start cleaning the site until 2024, so we still have a few years to make a decision."

Mr Gunn said a straw poll among workers at the site on whether or not the dome should be knocked down was split 50-50.

Remove contamination

"The problem about keeping the site is whoever took it over would probably lose money," he said.

"Unless it was a fantastic hotel it would probably cost them. Painting the dome alone costs around half a million."

Retaining and maintaining the dome over the next 10 years would cost 10.1m, while an extra 20-25m would then be needed for adjacent buildings and the sphere structure.

Demolishing the site after a clean-up to remove contamination would cost about 13.7m.

The final decision on the dome's future lies with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), the government organisation responsible for clean-up operations at UK nuclear sites.

The decommissioning of Dounreay is expected to take until 2033 to complete at a cost of 2.9bn.

The dome housed the Dounreay fast reactor, which ran from 1959 to 1977 and handled some of the highest hazard material on the site.


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