The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) has written today to Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd (DSRL) and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) over its ongoing concerns with the transportation of radioactive materials – some of which includes unirradiated plutonium – out of the Dounreay site. (1)
The letter includes mention of the NFLA’s alarm that a transport of radioactive materials from Dounreay to Sellafield last week took place during intense inclement weather created by ‘Storm Desmond’. As the group CORE Cumbria commented, the rail transport occurred at a point when there was serious flooding taking place across northern England and south Scotland. As CORE note, on the day of the transport, a warning was given by Network Rail’s Route Managing Director that “the unprecedented amount of rainfall and high winds has taken a significant toll on the railway… North of Carlisle station, we have to wait for eight feet of water to recede before we can carry out extensive safety checks and repairs – including rebuilding a host of complex electrical and signalling equipment which is currently underwater. We have a lot of work to do to ensure the railway is safe and able to be used”. (2)
NFLA is staggered such a transport of dangerous materials took place during such severe and predicted weather, at a time when the emergency services and local authorities were under considerable stress dealing with the effects of wide-area flooding. In the event of a serious incident or accident occurring to this transport it would have been very difficult for the emergency services to have dealt with it at the same time as flood alleviation. This is symptomatic of a seeming lack of concern of the wider situation, as could be seen in a incident involving a radioactive waste shipment by sea of the ‘MV Parida’ from Dounreay to Belgium in October 2014, which came adrift in high seas and severe gales due to a fire accident on board. This was so serious as to require the evacuation of an oil rig. (3)
NFLA Scotland held a recent seminar on such issues in Lerwick with a representative from DSRL and from the community group ‘Highland Against Nuclear Transports’ (HANT). The DSRL representative was left in little doubt of NFLA’s concerns with, and opposition to, the transport of radioactive materials by rail or by sea. Members mentioned real concerns of proposed future shipments of such waste through one of the most dangerous channels in the British Isles – the Minches of the Western Isles and the west coast of Scotland – at a time when there is only one emergency towing vehicle for the north of Scotland. (4) These concerns have been intensified following last week’s transport.
NFLA is also alarmed to hear at Prime Minister’s Question Time last week that DSRL are considering transporting radioactive materials by road to Wick Airport for a transfer by plane to the United States. NFLA agrees with the concern raised by Angus Robertson MP over the safety issues around such a transport. It is completely opposed to this transport going by air. (5)
NFLA Scotland has requested a meeting with DSRL and NDA staff at its next meeting in Glasgow City Chambers on these issues.
NFLA Scotland Convener Councillor Bill Butler said:
I am really concerned about these waste transports, which are not essential in the first place as a proper and safe radioactive waste store should be built at Dounreay. To hear that such waste transports are taking place during a period of prolonged, severe weather that closed much of the rail network is even more alarming. After a period of intense austerity our emergency services and local authorities were stretched to the limit in Cumbria and the south of Scotland last week during Storm Desmond. This weather was forecast, so why on earth is a rail convoy of dangerous radioactive waste being sent hundreds of miles at the same time? It beggars belief. A major emergency in Cumbria could have been made much worse if this rail transport had encountered serious difficulty. NFLA wants real answers to this matter from DSRL and the NDA. A full review of the necessity of such transports is also urgently required.”
For more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary on 07771 930196.
Notes for editors:
(1) Letters were sent today by the NFLA to DSRL and the NDA. They were also copied in to the Scottish Government for comment.
(2) CORE Cumbria, 12th December 2015 http://www.corecumbria.co.uk/newsapp/pressreleases/pressmain.asp?StrNewsID=363
(3) NFLA / KIMO Joint Media Release, 8th October 2014
(4) NFLA Scotland seminar on radwaste and energy issues, 30th August 2015, Lerwick