Highlands & Islands

Dounreay nuclear staff look to the future

Dounreay. Pic: DSRL
Image caption The clean up at Dounreay is expected to continue until 2032

The Dounreay nuclear power plant in Caithness should be completely flattened by 2032, according to the site's operators.

Dounreay Site Restoration Limited (DSRL) confirmed this week that among the buildings going will be the landmark sphere - also known as the dome.

Previously it had been suggested it might be retained as a monument to the UK's early efforts to harness nuclear energy.

DSRL also said restrictions on public access to the site were likely to remain for 300 years after 2032.

But how will the world have changed by the 24th Century?

For starters, much of what was Dounreay might have vanished as the rocky coast is slowly being washed away by the sea.

Some time between the years 2050 and 2078 waste and spent nuclear fuel stored at the site will be transported to an as-yet unbuilt UK repository, or dump, because of the threat from coastal erosion.

Beyond the far north, the wider world is forecast to have undergone great change.

Wiped out

Population rates will have declined and then started to rise again by 2300, according to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division.

Image caption Polar bears could be extinct within the next 100 years say scientists

It has projected that the number of people in the world will peak at 9.22 billion in 2075.

After reaching this maximum, world population will decline slightly and then increase slowly to reach 8.97 billion by 2300.

But some experts have warned that on some parts of the planet it could be too hot for humans to survive.

The scientists from Australia's University of New South Wales and Purdue University in the US suggest rising temperatures will bring about the problem by 2300.

Battling Klingons

In the natural world, polar bears could be among species wiped out by then.

In 2003, scientists at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, forecast the mammal will have been driven to extinction by global warming within 100 years.

The ecologists said the animal, which relies on sea ice to catch seals, was already starting to suffer the effects of climate change in areas such as Hudson Bay in Canada.

Visions of life three centuries from now can also be found in science fiction.

Image caption Patrick Stewart's Jean-Luc Picard adventures among the stars in 2300s

Star Trek: The Next Generation sees Patrick Stewart's Capt Jean-Luc Picard command the USS Enterprise - a new larger version of the spaceship helmed by William Shatner's James T Kirk.

Next Generation offers a future of adventure in far flung corners of the universe finding new civilisations and battling Klingons.

Logan's Run - a novel by William F Nolan and George Clayton Johnson later adapted for film in the 1970s - paints a much bleaker picture.

It is of a future where life must end at 30.

For DSRL the 24th Century is a relatively near future because they are making preparations for what might happen 100 centuries from now.

Hazardous waste from Dounreay is being sealed in containers designed to withstand the grinding motion of glaciers of a possible ice age 10,000 years from now.

A perfect future scenario for polar bears - if there are any still around.

More on this story