Radioactive material found in ‘uncontaminated area’ at Dounreay

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has asked the UK Atomic Energy Authority to undertake an urgent investigation into the latest incident at the Dounreay nuclear site, when a radioactive particle was found in an area previously thought to be clear of contamination.

The particle, which has a higher level of radioactivity than those previously discovered around Sandside Bay, was found near Dounreay Castle, in an area accessible to the public but only by appointment with the company, SEPA announced on 12 December. It was buried at a depth of 1cm in nominally ‘clean’ soil at the landward side of the Castle, in an area sheltered from the influence of the sea. SEPA has described this as a “significant development” because it appears to rule out historical transport from the sea, believed to be the most likely explanation prior to this find.

In its letter to the company, SEPA suggests several other possible ways in which the particle may have been transported, including by the wind, in contaminated soil moved in to the present location, or by human or animal movement. “SEPA requests that UKAEA urgently undertake a detailed investigation into the possible pathways that may have led to the deposit of the fragment,” the letter reads. “The investigation should include examination of the possibility of the fragment originally emanating from the D1213 stack. SEPA would wish to see a report of this investigation as a matter of urgency. In the meantime SEPA would recommend that UKAEA review its procedures for the admittance of visitors to this ancient monument.”

Only two months ago, SEPA said that it was satisfied with the closing out process at Dounreay (see related story).

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