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12 December 05
Dounreay Seeks Way Forward On The Particles
The largest consultation exercise ever undertaken by Dounreay’s operator was announced today to identify the Best Practicable Environmental Option for radioactive particles found in the seabed and beaches near the former experimental reactor establishment.

A newsletter is being issued today to more than a thousand registered stakeholders, outlining the results of a £10 million research programme and inviting members of the public to participate in a preliminary phase of engagement.

This will be augmented by a series of outreach meetings and public exhibitions next month to gather more feedback about the options that should be assessed and the criteria to be used.

Two independent expert reports are due to be published in 2006 and the findings, together with feedback from the preliminary phase and ongoing technical studies, should enable UKAEA to carry out a detailed assessment and consult widely on the options later in the year. This is expected to lead to recommendations in 2007 on the way forward.

Norman Harrison
Director Of Dounreay

Norman Harrison, director of Dounreay, said: “The purpose of the consultation is to find out, in an open and inclusive manner, if there is a better way to manage the legacy of particles than the current approach, which is to monitor beaches to criteria laid down by SEPA and remove those particles that can be detected when they come ashore. “However much I and everyone at Dounreay today regrets the practices of old that gave rise to this legacy, we cannot turn back the clock. It therefore becomes very important to everyone that we do what is right today, so that those who are affected by this legacy can have confidence that the preferred way forward is the right one for safety, society and the environment.”

UKAEA has commissioned consultants Entec UK to facilitate the preliminary phase of public engagement and the transparency of the process is being overseen by a stakeholder consultation steering group chaired by Councillor Bill Fernie, who represents Wick West on Highland Council. He said: “A considerable amount of work has gone into looking at how we might present information to the public that is clear and open. The Steering Group is looking forward to assisting everyone involved in making the choices that will decide the future of how we deal with the particles in the environment. From early in 2006 we will be working to ensure that anyone who wishes to can contribute their view and I encourage anyone with an interest to participate.”

Bill Fernie Highland Councillor For Wick West & Chairman Of The BPEO Stakeholder Consultation Steering Group On Particles

Particles are fragments of irradiated nuclear fuel similar in size to grains of sand. They were created during the break-up of spent nuclear fuel for reprocessing and fires during its dissolution, and their release into the sea can be traced to historic waste management practices dating back to the late 1950s.

The total number of particles discharged into the sea during Dounreay’s fuel reprocessing era is uncertain. In recent years, specialist divers and a robotic monitoring device have surveyed 340,000 m2 of the seabed around a disused discharge outlet. To date, 926 particles have been recovered by divers from the seabed, and almost 300 particles have been recovered from nearby beaches.

Dounreay was Britain’s centre of fast reactor research and development from 1955 until 1994. It is now being decommissioned by UKAEA on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

Particles Consultation Steering Group:
An independent steering group was established in 2003 to oversee the transparency of the consultation process. The Steering Group consists of:

Bill Fernie Highland Council, Wick West (Chairman)
John Thurso MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross
Rick Nickerson  KIMO secretariat
Iain Baikie Environment expert, KP Technology
Fred Barker  Consultant specialising in nuclear policy analysis and stakeholder engagement
Ian Clark Dounreay Trade Unions