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Down with nukes means up with Ian Donnelly

Ian Donnelly joined Costain as the company's first director of nuclear projects at the start of the year.He speaks to Joanna Booth

Is your background in the nuclear industry?

I've been in construction for 20 years.My last job was with Foster Wheeler.The company hadn't had much involvement with the nuclear sector in this country, so I was researching market entry strategies. It gave me a great feel for the industry.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is being launched next month, and will take responsibility for all British nuclear sites.What effect will this have?

The industry has spent the past two years gearing up for this.There's been a lot of preparation work getting people up to speed with what the NDA expects of them. It wants things done differently.

Industry players need to come up with fresh approaches.We need to transfer ideas and innovation learnt in other sectors - not only from engineering, design and construction, but also the oil, gas and petrochemical industries.The drive is to shorten the timeframe for decommissioning without compromising safety or quality.We also need to work in an economic manner. It is coming out of the taxpayer's pocket.

How much nuclear work is Costain doing?

We've just finished some engineering design work at Dounreay and are on site at Harwell and Hunterston A.We are bidding for framework service contracts and discrete projects for the British Nuclear Group, the UK Atomic Energy Authority and the Atomic Weapons Establishment.

We take care of the civils work ourselves, and are taking on a number of partners to deal with the demolition and new build stuff.We are looking to take some specialist skills in-house, potentially by acquisition and training.

Is there a guaranteed volume of work over the next few years?

The near-term work plans for each site are co-ordinated and approved by the NDA at the moment, and will go public in the next few weeks. It will schedule the works for the next three years. Over that period Costain is hoping to attract £50-£100 million in turnover.

In January Sir David King, chief scientific adviser to the Government, said it would be foolhardy to say there is no need for nuclear new build.Do you think new reactors will be built?

Debate is surging round this issue.The Government line is that there is still work to be done with current energy sources, but that doesn't mean discounting nuclear in the future. Recent polls show the public perceives nuclear as a clean source of energy.The Nuclear Industry Association has a new build work group that Costain is registered to take part in. It's a long-term issue.

What are the particular challenges of working in the nuclear sector?

There can be a perception that procedures and regulations hinder progress, but there is a reason for them and you have to work with them.Clients could help by opening more information to players at an earlier stage to give them the chance to analyse problems.