Statement on the radioactive particles found in the local coastal
environment resulting from operations at the UKAEA site at Dounreay
statement from COMARE gives details of further recommendations on
monitoring for particles both on beaches and offshore. These
recommendations were formulated following the publication of the second
report of the Dounreay Particles Advisory Group (DPAG), the continuing
appraisal of the particles being found on the Sandside Bay beach where
public access is unrestricted and ongoing research.
COMARE were asked by the Secretary of State for Scotland to
consider and advise on the incidence of leukaemia and related issues
around the Dounreay Nuclear establishment in 1986.
published its original advice and recommendations on the possible
increased risk of leukaemia in young people near the Dounreay site in its
Second report in 1988. As part of the continuing investigation by COMARE,
documentation was provided by Her Majesty's Industrial Pollution
Inspectorate (HMIPI) on the occurrence of radioactive particles on the
Dounreay foreshore and the public beach at Sandside Bay. The UKAEA
informed COMARE that the particles were the result of an accidental
spillage in 1965. A Working Group was appointed by COMARE to investigate
this issue. The Working Group visited the Dounreay site in 1994 where
other potential sources of particulate contamination were identified.
These sources included the Intermediate Level Waste Shaft (ILW) which is
located close to the Dounreay foreshore on the edge of the UKAEA site.
report on the potential health effects and possible sources of the
particles was published with the Radioactive Waste Management Advisory
Committee (RWMAC) in 1995.
investigations by the Dounreay Working Group following publication of the
joint report resulted in the publication, in 1999, of COMARE's Sixth
Report that reconsidered the health implications and possible source of
Dounreay Working Group visited the UKAEA Dounreay site in October 2001 and
were advised that the numbers of particles found to date would indicate
that there was a reservoir in the offshore sediments. UKAEA also agreed
that there was a need to eliminate other possible sources such as the
inactive site drains, the discharge pipe and diffuser, and the ILW shaft.
the visit recommendations were published on COMARE's website in May 2002.
These recommendations concentrated on monitoring and on studies to define
the source of the particles.
Monitoring of the beaches from Melvich to Thurso has been
undertaken by UKAEA. Currently the monitoring is concentrated in seven
areas, Melvich, Sandside, Dounreay foreshore, Cross Kirk, Brims Ness,
Scrabster and Thurso. To date, particles have only been found in two
areas: the Dounreay foreshore and the beach at Sandside Bay. Particles
have also been found in the off-shore areas out from the Dounreay
foreshore and Sandside Bay. The off-shore particles have been identified
using both diver and towed instrument surveys. Divers have also been used
to survey water uprisings from the seafloor in the areas off the Dounreay
of the beach at Sandside Bay in 2003 resulted in the discovery of
increased numbers of particles. In this statement COMARE notes that the
characteristics of the particles from 2003 are consistent with those found
on Sandside beach in previous years although the overall average
radioactivity concentration is lower. The increase in particle finds is
consistent with the numbers expected using the improved monitoring
techniques now in place, but other factors may also have affected the
quantity found and consistent continual monitoring is advised. Further
offshore surveys are also recommended.
Committee also recognises that preliminary results from the ongoing
studies to identify the health risks from the particles show that
radiation doses may be less than those originally estimated in COMARE’s
The full statement on the
Dounreay particles can be viewed at:
COMARE Statement on the radioactive particles found in the