Planned Scots museum will tell UK nuclear history

PLANS for an ambitious £20 million archive centre in Caithness, aimed at telling the story of the UK’s nuclear history, are forging ahead.

Work goes on to build the distinctive dome at Dounreay. Picture: TSPL

Highland councillors are fully expected to vote unanimously in favour of the proposal for a distinctive triangular-shaped archive just outside Wick when its planning application comes up for debate next week.

The centre will house tens of millions of documents, spanning 70 years of history from across Britain’s nuclear sites, including nearby Dounreay. Around 30 jobs will be created.

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A report to Tuesday’s north planning committee by official Emma Forbes said: “The proposed building has a gross floor area of approximately 6,186 square metres.

“It is expected to hold between 20 and 30 million digital records and more than 28,000 linear metres (17 miles) of paper and photographic records primarily concerning the history, development and decommissioning of the UK’s civil nuclear industry since the 1940s.

“The need for this facility was identified in 2008 when the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) announced plans to create the new archive in Caithness.

“This was in response to the NDA’s duty to manage public records, keeping them safe and making them accessible to the public and the nuclear community.”

The NDA archive is being developed in partnership with Highland Council, whose own North Highland Archive records will also be housed in the facility.

The archive will bring together vast numbers of records, plans, photographs, drawings and other important information dating as far back as Second World War, that are currently stored in various locations around the country.

An NDA spokesman said: “Much of the information will eventually be digitised and made available for electronic research, and to support the ongoing decommissioning mission.

“Some of the material is currently held in buildings scheduled for demolition as sites are decommissioned, while some is also stored in off-site locations.

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

“The Wick facility will also be developed as a base for training archivists, potentially offering apprenticeships, linking up with the University of the Highlands and Islands and the local community.”

Councillors are being recommended to grant the planning application when it comes up for debate and, because they are partners in the project, it is expected to clear this next hurdle without a hitch.

In her report, Miss Forbes said: “The design of the proposal is bold, distinctive and contemporary, utilising a triangular geometric footprint with high-quality materials and a design solution which maximises energy efficiency.”

If approved, the building is due for completion in late 2016.