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Nucleus: The Nuclear and Caithness Archive

Located in the far north of Scotland in Wick, Caithness, a new £20 million state-of-the-art archive has been built in order to co-locate and manage nuclear records.

“The Nuclear and Caithness Archive sits near the airport and will hold records from the entire UK civil nuclear industry from sites across the UK,” commented Anna McConnell, Stake Holder Relations and Socioeconomic Manager at the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

The documents will now be stored long-term under one roof. Built by Morrison Construction, the new build has the capacity for up to 300,000 archive boxes, with records dating back to the 1950s.

“Due to the nature of some of these records, they have to be kept up to 300 years,” added Anna.

As part of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s Information Governance Strategy, records will include thousands of digital records, microfiche, film, drawings, plans, photographs and documents which had previously been held at sites such as Dounreay, Harwell and Sellafield. Taking several years to complete, all nuclear records that require long-term preservation will be relocated here and where possible be made open to industry and the public. The archive has mobile shelving to allow an easier search through the more than 26 kilometres of shelving.

The site also houses the archives of Caithness as part of the NDA’s socioeconomic legacy to the area.

The Caithness archives date back to the 16th Century and relate to the history of the county of Caithness from 1589 to the present day including documents in different formats such as charters, minute books, correspondence maps, photographs and plans. Previously looked after by Caithness Archive Centre, a service provided by High Life Highland on behalf of the Highland Council, some of the staff from the old archive centre have also been relocated to the new building.

For the new building, public access is key. A display area sits within the foyer that will welcome local exhibitions as well as a community room that has a projector, whiteboard and other equipment which will be made available for use. Community groups will be able to use the space for learning and recreation with local schools and students able to use it as they complete projects. Alongside this, there is a large public research room with computer terminals and space for students and researchers to lay out documents. The new archive will be open to the public from January 2017.

Restore Scan Ltd, the NDA’s commercial partner, will be managing the collection of unique items meaning the information will be available to support both research and forthcoming phases of nuclear decommissioning. A lot of the information will be converted into a digital format to allow electronic research to support the ongoing nuclear decommissioning mission.

More than 20 staff will be employed in Wick to manage both the UK’s nuclear records and the Caithness collection. 120 construction jobs have also been created due to Morrison Construction hiring several Caithness companies to help complete the project. This includes a Site Management Trainee, a Site Office Manager and Apprentice Administrator, who are all from the local area and who have been employed by Morrison Construction since the beginning of the project. This consolidation of nuclear records in Wick will provide value for money and ensure safe and secure long-term management of the information.

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