Go-ahead for nuclear archive at Wick

Nuclear Decommissioning Authority WickHighland Council has now given the go-ahead to plans by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) for a nuclear archive at Wick in Scotland.

Planning permission for the Reiach and Hall Architects-designed facility was granted this week by the North Planning Committee meeting at Dingwall, following an officers’ recommendation to approve the application.

The NDA, meanwhile, is soon to announce the identity of the contractor who will develop the next phase of the design work. The building is due to be complete by late 2016.

The archive, which is being developed in partnership with Highland Council, will house more than 70 years’ worth of historic information from across UK’s civil nuclear industry, including up to 30 million digital records.

Records from the North Highland Archive will also be transferred to the new facility when it opens in late 2016. Currently stored in cramped conditions in the Carnegie Building in Wick, this important local archive contains documents dating back to the 16th century.

Separately, a procurement exercise is under way to appoint a commercial partner who will operate the archive.

The NDA’s head of information governance Simon Tucker, who is leading the project, said: “We are delighted that planning permission has been granted and look forward to seeing the start of construction work later in the year. This is a hugely important facility for the nuclear industry, and will also provide employment and contract opportunities in the region.”

The building will be located north of Wick, opposite the airport, on uncultivated grassland where RAF married quarters once stood. It forms part of land that is designated for industrial and business use. Its bold, triangular design has already been the subject of extensive consultations with the council and local community.

Welcoming the council decision, David Flear, chair of the Dounreay Site Stakeholder Group, said: “I’m absolutely delighted at the news. Its great news for Caithness and the NDA will have a fabulous facility. The Dounreay Stakeholder Group has been involved in this project for some time and it’s very pleasing to see this progress.”

Potentially employing around 20 full-time staff, the archive will bring together vast numbers of records, plans, photographs, drawings and other important information dating as far back as the Second World War.

Much of the information will eventually be converted into digital format. It will be made available for electronic research and to support the ongoing decommissioning mission.

Sellafield, the NDA’s largest site, is estimated to hold more than 50% of all the records in numerous stores on site, while at least of 80,000 archive boxes are held in commercial storage facilities off site.

With public access a priority, the Wick facility will also be used as a base for training archivists. Potentially the facility will offer apprenticeships, linking up with the University of the Highlands and Islands and the local community. The NDA is also committed to working with other regional heritage centres around the country.

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