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Dounreay work experience students virtually build nuclear waste facility

Students taking part in Dounreay's virtual work experience programme.
Students taking part in Dounreay's virtual work experience programme.

A group of Dounreay apprentices and graduates has been praised for overcoming Covid restrictions to offer work experience to the next generation of nuclear engineers.

Following its success, site owner, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), is hoping to roll out similar virtual programmes at its other facilities around the country.

Dounreay’s normal work experience for local secondary school pupils had to be shelved this year because of the pandemic.

The online version attracted students from as far afield as London and Derby, who were set the task of planning and building a hypothetical facility for low-level radioactive waste.

The Dounreay site, in Caithness.

Graduates and apprentices worked with the NDA’s in-house training and development team and operating companies and the Speakers for Schools organisation to devise and deliver the programme.

The NDA’s people strategy delivery manager, Codie Barnes, said: “The team at Dounreay has put in an extraordinary amount of effort to ensure the event was a success.

It’s been a pleasure working in partnership with Dounreay and Speakers for Schools to develop a virtual work experience opportunity for young people – they’ve created something really special that I hope we can use across the rest of the NDA group.”

Speakers for Schools was founded in 2010 by ITV’s political editor, Robert Peston, with the aim of “giving all young people access to the same prestigious networks available to the top fee-paying schools.”

The charity runs a work experience programme for state school students and arranges talks by influential figures.

Julia Massey, regional head of Speakers for Schools, said: “The young project team masterfully brought together a well-structured and high impact programme delivered to next generation nuclear engineers.

The session really helped to build the confidence of the students. By the end of week four students were engaging both verbally and with cameras on – this is no mean feat.”

Dounreay, which is in the process of being decommissioned and demolished, was set up in 1955 as a fast reactor power development facility.

Last week the NDA announced the “world’s deepest nuclear clean-up” had started at the site, near Thurso, to retrieve dumped radioactive waste from a 214ft shaft.

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