The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) Scotland Forum is very disappointed to hear that a further delay has taken place to the remediation of the Dalgety Bay shoreline, which contains significant radium contamination going back decades. It is now 9 years since the Ministry of Defence (MOD) promised to clear the area, and still core work has not formally begun. This slow activity from the MOD is mirrored at the Rosyth MOD site, where redundant nuclear submarines have now laid berthed in the site awaiting dismantling for 25 years, where progress remains considerably slower than community groups expected.
The radioactive contamination around the Dalgety Bay shoreline arose from the dumping of redundant aeroplanes after the Second World War, and the radium dials within them seeping into the environment.
As the Courier has confirmed today, the MOD had been due to have its appointed contractor Balfour Beatty start remediation work on the Dalgety Bay shoreline this summer, but it will now not commence such activity until April 2021. (1)
In a statement the MOD confirmed:
“Every effort was made to work with our partners to begin the removal of radiological contamination at Dalgety Bay this summer but regrettably, the application for the necessary licence to the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency has been delayed. Work is now expected to start in April 2021 – the next available opportunity to ensure there is no disturbance to wintering birds. This is in line with Scottish National Heritage Guidelines.”
This is immensely frustrating for the local communities at Dalgety Bay, as well as for Fife Council and the NFLA. It has taken much lobbying to get the MOD to accept liability for cleaning up the area in the first place, and the process to choose a contractor, prepare the site and start the work has often been much slower than would have been liked from the UK Government. Another year of delay risks increased contamination and environmental degradation. NFLA also remains concerned that there could be many other former defence sites around Scotland and the wider UK where such contamination could also be in existence, and it calls on the MOD to monitor its entire existing and redundant estate. (2)
NFLA also remain concerned with the slow progress in the MOD dismantling redundant nuclear submarines which are laid up at Rosyth in south west Fife (as well as at Plymouth Devonport). 2020 is the 25th anniversary the eventual 27 submarines have laid up at Rosyth and Devonport. NFLA was one of many groups actively involved in an exhaustive consultation process with the MOD as to how these submarines should be dismantled. After much effort from stakeholders with the MOD, it was agreed that a demonstrator submarine would be dismantled at Rosyth to understand the process, and then a swift dismantling of each of the score of submarines would then take place. Intermediate level waste from the submarine would be sent to an interim store at Capenhurst in Cheshire.
Initial dismantling on the first and demonstrator submarine HMS Swiftsure began in December 2016 at Rosyth dockyard. Again there has been many stop-starts to the programme, which is costing £30 million a year just to keep them in storage. The MOD has acknowledged that plans for this process to be completed by 2023 has now been moved back to 2026. (3)
Earlier in the year the NFLA Secretary and the NuLEAF (Nuclear Legacy Advisory Forum) Secretary met MOD officials to discuss the programme and call for speedier progress. A plan to visit the Rosyth site next month has had to be cancelled due to the Covid-19 outbreak. NFLA urge MOD to resolve delays in this project – it remains frustrated as well about the lack of public engagement from the MOD on progress with the project since a decision on how to dismantle the submarines was made in 2016.
NFLA Scotland Convener, Councillor Feargal Dalton said:
“NFLA Scotland calls on a greater sense of urgency from the Ministry of Defence to clean up the Dalgety Bay shoreline and the Submarine Dismantling Project at Rosyth – a project the NFLA has been a stakeholder in for over 20 years. Yet again the MOD have missed a key deadline in starting work at Dalgety Bay, and so local stakeholders like the Sailing Club and the wider local community will see no progress with the safety of the site for at least another 9 months. With ongoing delay after delay with dismantling submarines at Dalgety Bay it indicates to the NFLA that the MOD has a poor understanding and knowledge of delivering radiation remediation projects. It has to improve its processes and clean up these twin radioactive legacies. Fife communities deserve better from the MOD.”
Ends – for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 00 44 (0)161 234 3244.
Notes for Editors:
(1) The Courier, August 27th 2020
(2) NFLA Radioactive Waste Policy Briefing 42, Dalgety Bay and the wider radium legacy, October 2013