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UKAEA  Dounreay  and  the  UHI Millennium Institute are to collaborate with their  counterparts  in France in a ground-breaking initiative to establish common international standards in decommissioning qualifications.

An  agreement to share decommissioning knowledge and experience has been in place between the UKAEA and the French agency CEA (Commissariat a l'Energie Atomique)  since  1999. This has now been expanded to include education and skills   training  in  decommissioning  through  UHI,  the  Joseph  Fourier University  of Grenoble and the National Institute for Nuclear Sciences and
Techniques (INSTN), CEA's training and education arm.

The  new agreement aims to set common standards for vocational and academic training,  the  development  of  a joint European masters degree in nuclear decommissioning and student exchanges between the two countries.

It  also  raises the prospect of extending common standards in training and education  to  other  European  countries  where  career  opportunities are emerging in the decommissioning of early nuclear facilities.

Mr  Peter  Welsh, director of UKAEA Dounreay and a board member of the UK's Sector  Skills  development  agency,  said:  "This agreement underlines the leading  position  of Dounreay in nuclear decommissioning, not only at a UK level  but  in  European  terms  as  well.  Increasingly,  as  more nuclear facilities  enter  their  decommissioning  phase,  the  opportunities  will increase  for  trained  personnel to move between countries. This agreement brings  a  step closer the existence of common qualifications and standards of  training  across  Europe,  which  can  only be good news for the career
opportunities of young people in the Highlands and Islands."

Hugh  Logan,  Principal of the UHI academic partner North Highland College, said:  "This  collaborative European partnership represents the cornerstone of  our  strategic  response  to  the  need  for  specialised  training for decommissioning work."

Dr  Christine Feltin, of INSTN, said: "CEA and UKAEA have benefited greatly from  the  1999  agreement.  The  extension of these links to education and training  underlines  the  commitment  of  both organisations to continuing professional development in the field of nuclear decommissioning."

James  Fraser, secretary to UHI, said: "This agreement both underpins UHI's developing  expertise  in  decommissioning  with  access  to  the  training expertise  of  CEA  and  the  University  of  Grenoble  and  adds a further international dimension to UHI's profile."

Prof  Francois  Brut,  who  is  charge  of masters degrees in nuclear waste management  and  decommissioning  at the University of Grenoble, said: "The agreement  with our counterparts in Scotland will open up new opportunities to  enhance  the  learning experiences of students in both countries across the  spectrum  of  skills  needed to decommissioning nuclear facilities. It will open European job opportunities to trainees having a good knowledge of approaches to decommissioning in both Scotland and France."

Carroll  Buxton,  chief  executive  of Caithness and Sutherland Enterprise, said:  "This  agreement  clearly  demonstrates  the  benefits of working in partnership.  We  recognise  the value of transferability and international recognition  of all qualifications. In the context of decommissioning, this
is  particularly  important  with  regard  to our objective of developing a centre  of  excellence  in  the  area,  an integral part of which will be a skills base which can be 'exported' to other areas."