UK national nuclear archive opens in Scotland

15 February 2017

A national archive of records related to the history and development of the UK's civil nuclear industry opened to the public for the first time yesterday. The archive, located in Caithness, Scotland, is funded by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).

Nucleus - national nuclear archive - 460 (NDA)
The Nucleus archive in Caithness (Image: NDA)

The archive has been built in response to the NDA's statutory obligation to manage public records, keeping them safe and making them more accessible to the public and the nuclear community.

The NDA embarked upon the project to find a single home for all the relevant material - records, plans, photographs, drawings and other data and information - in 2005, following an evaluation of the options and costs. Caithness - with 2000 people working in decommissioning at the nearby Dounreay site - was selected to house the £20 million ($25 million) archive. Dounreay is set to close in 2030.

The NDA said an exercise lasting at least five years is now under way to collect many thousands of records from locations across the UK for transfer to Nucleus (the Nuclear and Caithness Archive).

The archive will include material from hundreds of thousands of boxes that have accumulated over the decades at Sellafield, Dounreay, Magnox sites, Harwell, Winfrith and other nuclear facilities that are scheduled for eventual demolition. Large quantities of additional material, meanwhile, are also held at off-site commercial storage locations.

Up to 26 kilometres of shelving has been installed in a series of secure pods to store the material and ensure it is preserved. The material will be catalogued, indexed and stored in a carefully controlled environment, with humidity and temperature kept stable to minimise the potential for deterioration.

The NDA said discussions are under way with the wider nuclear industry, including the Ministry of Defence, new build developers and operators of the UK's fleet of nuclear power plants, to consolidate their records at Nucleus.

The archive will also act as a central repository for detailed radioactive waste records related to the UK's planned geological disposal facility. These records, it said, must be safeguarded for many generations.

NDA chairman Stephen Henwood said, "Today we see a new chapter in the important role Caithness has played in the UK's nuclear history. For many decades Dounreay was at the forefront of the development of the British and world nuclear industry and now Nucleus will see this knowledge protected for future generations."

NDA chief executive John Clarke said, "Across the UK, at over 17 sites, we have accumulated large volumes of important and valuable records, some dating back to the 1940s. Now we have Nucleus, we have ensured that this information is accessible, secure and managed efficiently for the taxpayer."

An official opening ceremony for Nucleus - which will employ a staff of about 20 including archivists, preservation experts and support staff - will be held later this year.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News

Filed under: United Kingdom