Ministry of Defence chiefs are pledging that community representatives in Caithness will be fully consulted over the wind-down of the Vulcan naval submarine test base.
The pledge comes after the MoD came under sustained flak for undue secrecy about how it plans to decommission the site, 10 miles west of Thurso.
Earlier this month, it was accused of adopting a “cloak and dagger” approach and keeping workers and the public in the dark about its plans.
Vulcan, which is next door to Dounreay, has been in rundown mode since its pressurised water reactor was shut down in 2015.
Dounreay Stakeholder Group, the community liaison body for both sites, relayed its concern to then UK defence secretary Gavin Williamson.
In response, Andrew Parrish, of the submarine delivery secretariat, said it is disappointing that
the group feel the MoD has not been as open as Dounreay’s operators.
“That is certainly not the intent,” he states. “I can assure you that we remain committed to maintaining a dialogue with all stakeholders, including DSG, regarding the future of the Vulcan site.”
He said the MoD has sought the group’s input into options for the site.
Mr Parrish adds: “The MOD is currently undertaking the costing appraisal aspect to help inform and mature options.
“The MoD intends to potentially run a competition for the future management and delivery of the decommissioning of the Vulcan site and the constraint this brings.
“It is for this reason that the MoD is unwilling to expose emerging thinking on options in public forum.”
Mr Parrish said it is required to carry out statutory consultations that will involve DSG and other organisations.
The MoD has previously made clear that it aims to have decommissioned Vulcan in the same timeframe as Dounreay which is between 2020 and 2033.
Vulcan, which was used as a testbed for the engines deployed in Britain’s fleet of nuclear subs, employs about 260.
The current work programme focuses on the removal of the spent reactor fuel stockpile and its haulage to the giant reprocessing plant at Sellafield in west Cumbria.