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Caithness News Bulletins August 2005

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The Highlands of Scotland have broken new ground again in the delivery of training and education in nuclear clean-up.  Twelve people enrolled at North Highland College, University of the Highlands and Islands (NHC UHI) have become the first in Britain to be awarded a Higher National Certificate in Nuclear Decommissioning.

And the area will continue to lead the country later this year when it becomes the first to offer two new Higher National Diplomas in Decommissioning Management & Decommissioning Operations. A professional development award will also be available for experienced nuclear workers retraining for this work – ‘The Certificate in Decommissioning Operations with Safety’.

The delivery of new opportunities in higher education follows partnership working between North Highland College, UHI and UKAEA, which is managing the decommissioning of Scotland’s largest nuclear site at Dounreay on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, to address a national shortage of suitably qualified and experienced people.

The first HNCs in Britain have gone to eight employees of UKAEA and two employees of decommissioning contractor Mitsui Babcock, who undertook the course over two years through day-release. Two additional students studied full time and will be seeking related employment in the near future.

Rosemary Thompson, principal of North Highland College UHI, said: “Over the past five years the college has progressively built up a range of engineering & science programmes at all levels to train both new entrants and more experienced personnel in the nuclear sector for this challenging work. The college is the lead partner in this field within the UHI network and can deliver both FE and HE courses up to and including post-graduate taught and research programmes. It is now possible for a young apprentice in this field to both gain experience though work and continue their studies from the entry level at NC to the HND programmes for supervisors/managers and beyond.”

Prof Colin Bayliss is director of the Government funded Cogent Sector Skills Council, UKAEA’s Major Projects and Engineering Division based at Forss, near Thurso, and chairs the advisory council of the NHC/UHI’s Decommissioning and Environmental Remediation Centre located at the nearby Janetstown decommissioning test and trials facility. He said: “The decommissioning market is opening up in the UK and abroad at a time when there is a shortage of suitably qualified and experienced personnel in this country to carry out the work. By working with North Highland College UHI in the first course of its kind in Britain, UKAEA is leading the way in building up the capacity of British business to compete for this work.”