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Particle Finds In Caithness

26 April 05
SUMMARY OF RADIATION MONITORING
SURVEY OF DUNNET BEACH 2005
To comply with the latest version of the environmental monitoring programme issued by SEPA, UKAEA were required to monitor Dunnet beach once in 2005 for the presence or absence of radioactive particles. Since this programme also requires frequent monitoring of six other beaches, the Dunnet survey was initially scheduled to be completed by the third calendar quarter of 2005; the large size of the beach would require a substantial effort of over 60 working days on top of the other commitments for the two monitoring vehicles.

The survey started at the end of January, following a period of storms which limited the amount of any surveying which could be safely carried out that month. These storms resulted in large quantities of debris being deposited on Dunnet and on other north coast beaches. In some places, accumulations of debris over 1 metre thick were observed. Following the detection on 2nd March of a contaminated stone on Dunnet, subsequently shown by laboratory analysis to contain 137Cs, UKAEA offered to level and survey this debris prior to continuing the beach survey. After clearance and removal of large quantities of this material, the beach survey was accelerated by increasing working times as daylight allowed, by incorporating weekend working and by diverting vehicle monitoring resource from other beaches. The survey was thus able to be completed by Friday 22nd April. The survey data sets will now be reviewed and any significant gaps in the coverage will be considered for a short top-up survey.

Based on preliminary estimates from satellite positioning records, the two monitoring vehicles operated by our contractor RWE NUKEM have covered in excess of 800,000 m2 of Dunnet beach.

The survey resulted in the successful detection of a number of radioactive items on Dunnet beach; these are summarised below:

  • 2nd March a small stone found wrapped within a tight ball of flotsam including seaweeds, string and plastic. The stone was measured in the Dounreay laboratories and found to contain about 20,000 Bq of 137Cs. The 137Cs appeared to be present over the surface of the item rather than present as a single hot spot. This sample is now being sent to an external laboratory for further geochemical analyses. The origin of the 137Cs contamination and of the substrate has not been established.

  • 26th March a small radioactive particle found in the northern half of the beach, under 7 cm of sand. During subsequent retrieval and laboratory separation the particle was shown to be very friable and fragmented into 15 pieces. The total 137Cs content was 8,900 Bq with no other radionuclides identified. Additional surface analyses of particle fragments by UKAEA have shown that this was a DFR-type particle, the presence of niobium metal being confirmed. The radioactive content means that this is the third lowest activity particle of over 250 retrieved from all of the beaches monitored, including the Dounreay foreshore, and the second smallest if only Sandside finds are counted.

  • 31st March, 1st April, 5th April, 6th April and 22nd April on each of these dates, a radioactive item was detected and retrieved to Dounreay laboratories for further analysis. On all five occasions, the items were large stones weighing from 1.2 kg to 7.5 kg and contained elevated levels of natural radionuclides from the uranium series. The total natural activity present in these stones is estimated to range from about 11,000 Bq to about 130,000 Bq. They were all found at the southern end of Dunnet beach, where rocks containing high levels of uranium are known to occur from historic surveys. In only one case was a trace of 137Cs detected; this was at such a low level that it was no greater than the background 137Cs content from all sources in north coast sediments. Much larger slabs of stone also triggered the detector alarms but these were too large to be transported safely to Dounreay.

Following this survey of Dunnet beach, UKAEA will work closely with SEPA and its expert advisers to assess any health implications and if there is any justification for additional surveys of this beach or of any other beaches not already in the monitoring programme. Meanwhile, UKAEA will continue with the routine monitoring of six other beaches in the vicinity of Dounreay.

Particles Section At UKAEA Web Site
Sandside Beach finds - to 17 March 2005
Foreshore finds to 28 February 2005
Offshore finds to 28 February 2005

28 December 04
MONITORING OF SANDSIDE BEACH
UKAEA has instructed its contractor, RWE Nukem, to resume monitoring of Sandside Beach for radioactive particles.

It follows notification from the land-owner that agreement to access the beach, which was terminated by the land-owner with effect from April 30, 2004, has been reinstated.

Vehicular monitoring resumed from Thursday, 23 December 2004 in accordance with criteria laid down by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

UKAEA welcomes the reinstatement of access. A major consultation exercise on the options for dealing with all radioactive particles in the marine environment, including those found at Sandside Beach, is planned by UKAEA during 2005. Regular monitoring of local beaches, including Sandside, is important to the continuing development of these options, as well as providing ongoing reassurance about the risks to members of the public who use the beaches.

From 23 December 2004, UKAEA will be using its website as the primary means of public communication for the detection and retrieval of particles in the environment around Dounreay, including any at Sandside.

Detailed information about all new and historical particle finds will be published at http://www.ukaea.org.uk/dounreay/particles.htm

See Dounreay site For Latest Particle Finds

22 January 04
Particle Find 47
The particle was removed from the beach and taken to the site for analysis.

21 November 03
Particle Find 46
The particle was removed from the beach and taken to the site for analysis.

14 November 03
PARTICLE FIND 44 Found  45 found later same day
Same details as in earlier finds

9 July 03
PARTICLE 41 FOUND
Same details as earlier finds.

12 May 03
PARTICLE FIND 40 - SECOND TODAY
Another suspected radioactive particle resulting from historical operations at Dounreay was found during routine monitoring of Sandside Beach today.  The particle was removed from the beach and taken to the site for analysis.  Regulatory  and  other interested parties have been informed. A total of 40 particles  have  been  found  on  the  beach since 1984.  The particles are specks of irradiated fuel, similar in size to a grain of sand.

12 May 03
PARTICLE FIND 39
A suspected  radioactive  particle resulting from historical operations at Dounreay was found during routine monitoring of Sandside Beach today.  The particle was removed from the beach and taken to the site for analysis.  Regulatory  and  other interested parties have been informed. A total of 39 particles  have  been  found  on  the  beach since 1984.  The particles are specks of irradiated fuel, similar in size to a grain of sand.

14 March 03
DIVERS TO RETURN TO SEABED
Divers are to return to the seabed off Dounreay on 21 April 2003 in the latest phase of the offshore particles programme. They will aim to complete the capping of three redundant discharge risers on the seabed that are obscured by sediment and concrete, and repeat surveys of specific areas of seabed to provide more information about the behaviour and movement of particles. The results will inform the study of options for managing the particles legacy in the longer term, which will be the subject of public participation. The work is expected to take 30 days to complete and will be undertaken by Fathoms Ltd.

11 April 03
PARTICLE FINDS 37 and 38 at Sandside
Regulatory  and  other interested parties have been informed. A total of 38

10 April 03
PARTICLE 36 FIND ON SANDSIDE BEACH
Another suspected radioactive particle resulting from historical operations at Dounreay was found during routine monitoring of Sandside Beach today. It was the second to be found today.

10 April 03
STATEMENT
from the
SCOTTISH ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION AGENCY

PARTICLES HEALTH EFFECTS RESEARCH
SEPA has published the most recent report from its research project into the health effects of particles from Dounreay.  The report is a review of the procedures used for monitoring Sandside beach. It also calculates the minimum detectable particle activity and compares it with statutory requirements, and reviews two documents which comment on the procedures used at Sandside.  The review considered the effectiveness of the Groundhog Mark 1 equipment. This has now been replaced by better monitoring equipment, but the research findings will still help SEPA determine ongoing and practicable improvements to the monitoring programme, which is continually under review.  This work has been carried out for SEPA by the National Radiological Protection Board as part of a long-term project that should be completed next year. The report is available from the publications section of www.sepa.org.uk
SEPA believes that the requirements on UKAEA are sufficient to detect and remove particles at local public beaches that may pose a significant threat to public health.

10 April 03
PARTICLE 35 FIND ON SANDSIDE BEACH
A  suspected  radioactive  particle resulting from historical operations at Dounreay was found during routine monitoring of Sandside Beach today.

8 April 03
PARTICLE 34 FIND ON SANDSIDE BEACH

A  suspected  radioactive  particle resulting from historical operations at Dounreay was found during routine monitoring of Sandside Beach today.  The particle was removed from the beach and taken to the site for analysis.  Regulatory  and  other interested parties have been informed. A total of 34 particles  have  been  found  on  the  beach since 1984

2 April 03
PARTICLE 33 FOUND ON SANDSIDE BEACH

A  suspected  radioactive  particle resulting from historical operations at Dounreay was found during routine monitoring of Sandside Beach today. 

31 March 03
30th Particle Find
A  suspected  radioactive  particle resulting from historical operations at Dounreay was found during routine monitoring of Sandside Beach on Friday 28 March 03.   The particle was removed from the beach and taken to the site for analysis.  Regulatory  and  other interested parties have been informed. A total of 31 particles  have  been  found  on  the  beach since 1984. 

20 March 03
29th PARTICLE FIND ON SANDSIDE BEACH
A  suspected  radioactive  particle resulting from historical operations at Dounreay was found during routine monitoring of Sandside Beach today.  The particle was removed from the beach and taken to the site for analysis.    Regulatory  and other interested parties have been informed. A total now of 29  particles  have  been found on the beach since 1984. 

19 March 03
REPORT PROVIDES REASSURANCE ON "NEGLIGIBLE" RISK FROM PARTICLES
An  independent  report published today concludes that the risk of a person coming into contact with a particle at Sandside "is so minute that it could reasonably be considered negligible".
The 2nd Interim Report of the Dounreay Particles Advisory Group - an expert group  set  up  to advise the Scottish Environment Protection Agency - also states  that any particle which could pose a significant risk to the health of people who use Sandside Beach would "almost certainly be detected" under
the current monitoring arrangements. All of the particles found at Sandside during 19 years of monitoring have been below this level of activity.
UKAEA's Head of Safety and Environment at Dounreay, Dr Guy Owen, said: "The DPAG  report  concludes  that the new monitoring equipment put into service during  2002  should  readily  detect  particles which might pose a risk to health.  "The recent increase in the rate of detection of very weak particles (up to 100  times  less  radioactive than the level quoted as a health risk in the DPAG  report)  also provides reassurance about the increased sensitivity of the  new  monitoring system now in place at Sandside. We are using the best equipment  offered  to us during a recent European-wide tendering exercise.  However,  we  know  that techniques can always be improved, and we have now commissioned  work  to  see  if  equipment can be developed to an even more sensitive  level,  and  still  be  robust for use on beaches exposed to the North  Atlantic. We also support DPAG's advice for independent trials to be carried  out  of the new system to confirm its performance, and are already discussing the details of this with SEPA and our contractor RWE."
Dr  Owen added: "Over the last five years, we have invested some 7 million of taxpayers' money to improve our understanding of particles in the marine environment.   We are continuing to improve our understanding in areas such as  the  movement of particles to deeper water, where they will pose little risk. Our findings will be made available to DPAG.
"We recognise the important role DPAG has to play in helping us to identify the  Best  Practicable Environmental Option for managing this legacy in the longer  term.  We  will  consider carefully all the recommendations in this report."

18 March 03
PARTICLE FIND ON SANDSIDE BEACH
A  suspected  radioactive  particle resulting from historical operations at Dounreay was found during routine monitoring of Sandside Beach today.

The particle was removed from the beach and taken to the site for analysis.  Regulatory  and other interested parties have been informed. A total now of 28  particles  have  been found on the beach since 1984.  The particles are small specks of irradiated fuel, similar in size to a grain of sand.

UKAEA  is required by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency to monitor the  beach  every  month.  However,  no monitoring was carried out by UKAEA during  July,  August,  September and October 2002, and January and most of
February  2003,  because  access to the beach was denied by the land-owner.

Monitoring,  using  a  new  and improved system of detection, resumed on 24 February  2003,  since when a total of six particles have now been detected and  retrieved.  Additional  monitoring  is  being carried out during March 2003.

UKAEA carries out a comprehensive and systematic programme of beaches monitoring on the instruction of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency. Five beaches used by the public are monitored regularly. No particles have been found on any of these beaches except Sandside.

Particles found in the past at Sandside typically have been 100 times less radioactive than the larger particles found on the enclosed foreshore at Dounreay, which is not open to the public. Most particles found in the past at Sandside have been beneath the level of detection for radioactivity specified by SEPA.  None has exceeded the level of radioactivity at which the National Radiological Protection Board advises that ingestion would have "no directly observable effects" on a person's health.

Independent experts have advised that the risk of encountering a particle at Sandside is very low. It is estimated there are in excess of a thousand million million grains of sand in the beach. The particles are similar in size to a single grain of sand.

Sandside Beach is normally monitored on about 12 days each month using a combination of vehicle-mounted and hand-held detection systems operated under contract by RWE. In addition, the strandline (the mark of the most recent high tide) is also monitored regularly. This is in accordance with criteria laid down by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency. Additional monitoring is being carried out during March on the instruction of SEPA.

UKAEA  is working closely with a number of organisations to identify the best practicable environmental option for addressing particles in the marine environment. UKAEA intends to begin public consultation on the  options  during  2003.  More  information about particles can be found on the UKAEA website at http://www.ukaea.org.uk

Earlier Particle Finds
13 March 03
Particle 27 At Sandside Beach
A  suspected  radioactive  particle resulting from historical operations at Dounreay was found during routine monitoring of Sandside Beach today.  The particle was removed from the beach and taken to the site for analysis. Regulatory  and other interested parties have been informed. A total now of 27  particles  have  been found on the beach since 1984.  The particles are small specks of irradiated fuel, similar in size to a grain of sand. 

4 March 03
PARTICLE 26 FIND ON SANDSIDE BEACH

A  suspected  radioactive  particle resulting from historical operations at Dounreay was found during routine monitoring of Sandside Beach on 3 March  2003

27 February 03
25th Particle Found On Sandside Beach
Second Today

A suspected radioactive particle resulting from historical operations at Dounreay was found during routine monitoring of Sandside Beach today. It was the second particle to be found at Sandside today.

27 February 03
24th Particle Found On Sandside Beach
The particle was removed from the beach and taken to the site for analysis.  Regulatory and other interested parties have been informed.

26 February 03
23rd PARTICLE FIND ON SANDSIDE BEACH
A suspected radioactive particle resulting from historical operations at Dounreay was found during routine monitoring of Sandside Beach today.  The particle was removed from the beach and taken to the site for analysis.  Regulatory and other interested parties have been informed.  A total now of 23 particles have been found on the beach since 1984.  The particles are small specks of irradiated fuel, similar in size to a grain of sand.
Sandside  Beach is surveyed every month for the presence of metallic particles.  This  normally  takes  about  12  days  to  complete.  In addition,  the  strandline (the mark of the most recent high tide) is also  monitored  regularly.  This is in accordance with criteria laid down by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.
A  number  of  other  beaches  used by the public between Thurso and Sandside  are  monitored  up to three times a year. No particles have been found except at Sandside.