UKAEA Fined £140,000 For Particles Offences - Clean-up Plan To Be Published In May
15th February 2007
UKAEA was fined £140,000 at Wick Sheriff Court today having plead guilty last week to four breaches of the Radioactive Substances Act 1960 between 1963 and 1984.
UKAEA expects to announce in May the preferred option for the retrieval of radioactive particles from the environment around Dounreay.
Public consultation on a short-list of 11 clean-up options closes on February 23.
The short-list was drawn up following a series of meetings and workshops. A further round of workshops is taking place this week and next week about the relative importance of criteria that will be used to arrive at a preferred option.
May's announcement will be followed by a further period of public consultation on the preferred option, leading to a decision on the way forward in 2008 after discussion with Government, regulatory bodies and affected land-owners.
UKAEA's director of safety Dr John Crofts said the announcement - known as the best practicable environmental option - would be an opportunity to demonstrate the ability of today's industry to clean up the legacy of past practices and reduce their impact on the environment.
He was speaking outside Wick Sheriff Court where UKAEA was fined a total of £140,000 after pleading guilty last week to four breaches of the Radioactive Substances Act 1960 between 1963 and 1984.
The offences were a result of installed equipment and operating practices that failed to prevent particulate from the dismantling of irradiated nuclear fuel being released to the environment via drains, and the excavation and disposal in Dounreay's landfill site of spoil contaminated with radioactive pollution from spillages on site. This was contrary to the authorisations for disposal of radioactive waste that were in place at the
Dr Crofts said: "The court today has passed judgement on the standards and practices of waste management more than a quarter of a century ago. We accept that mistakes were made and regret those mistakes. We, too, share the view that this is an unacceptable legacy of the Dounreay experiment.
"Our priority has been and will continue to be to minimise the risk to people and the environment. Our research in recent years and ongoing dialogue has enabled us to take forward 11 feasible clean-up options for consultation with stakeholders, particularly with the affected land-owner at Sandside. By May, we should be able to announce our preferred option. In the meantime, we will continue to work with regulators and Sandside Estate to monitor local beaches and remove any particles we detect."
SCOTTISH ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION AGENCY
15 February 2007
UKAEA fined a total of £140,000
The £140,000 total fine imposed upon UKAEA today (Thursday 15 February) should
serve as a stark warning to operators who disregard pollution laws aimed at protecting Scotland's environment.
That's the message from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) chief
executive Campbell Gemmell who warns those who don't take their environmental responsibilities seriously that SEPA will take action against them.
SEPA carried out a lengthy investigation at the site and reported the case to the Procurator Fiscal.
Campbell added: "This case clearly highlights that pollution is avoidable. This outcome serves as a valuable lesson to UKAEA and others that poor waste management practices will not be tolerated.
"As Scotland's environment watchdog we support all operators who are serious about the environment and we are committed to better regulation. However, we are still the regulator on behalf of the public and we will use our powers again if that is necessary."
UKAEA pled guilty at Wick Sheriff Court on Tuesday 6 February 2007 of allowing radioactive fuel fragments from Dounreay to enter the environment and to illegally depositing radioactive waste at a landfill on the site.
The nuclear clean-up company admitted four charges under the Radioactive Substances Act 1960 and was sentenced today.
The charges relate to:
1. Unauthorised disposals of solid radioactive waste at Landfill 42 between
1963 and 1975;
2. failure to prevent fragments of irradiated nuclear fuel being discharged
through the long sea outfall into the environment between 1963 and 1984;
3. unauthorised disposal of fragments of irradiated nuclear fuel from a
reactor fuel storage pond to a surface water drain between 1964 and 1967;
4. unauthorised disposals of solid radioactive waste to the conventional foul
drainage and surface water drainage system, resulting from a spill at building
D1251 in November 1965.
UKAEA was fined £40,000 for charge 1, £60,000 for charge 2, £20,000 for charge 3 and £20,000 for charge 4.
The court previously heard that between 1976 and 2006, a total of 1401 particles had been found, mostly from the local seabed and from Sandside Beach.
Hugh Fearn SEPA radioactive specialist explained the background to the charges:
"Radioactive liquid waste was and still is disposed of from Dounreay to the sea at the Pentland Firth via a long outfall. An authorisation was put in place in 1963 requiring that the authority use all reasonable practicable means to prevent the discharge of particulate matter effluent. However, on occasions this wasn't adhered to and no filtering process was in place to remove solid waste, resulting in a discharge of particles to the sea.
"The majority of the particles recovered have come from materials test reactor fuel elements which were dismantled in water filled ponds.
"The nature of the radioactive contamination has lasting consequences for the future and this is something which will need to be addressed by the polluter, UKAEA."
Anyone witnessing pollution is urged to report it straight away by calling SEPA's 24 hour pollution report line, 0800 80 70 60, giving as many details as possible so effective action can be taken.
Updated information about the potential health effects of particles was published in November 2006 as part of the Third Report of the Dounreay Particles Advisory Group. See: http://www.sepa.org.uk/radioactivity/dpag/3rd_report.htm
More information about radioactive particles at Dounreay can be found at:
Public participation in the Dounreay Site Restoration Plan
Particles in the marine environment
See - http://www.ukaea.org.uk/sites/dounreay_particles_in_the_marine_environment.htm
Today (Thursday 15 February 2007) in Thurso there is a public exhibition and meeting about the Physical End State of the Dounreay site. - Open to the pubic