SEPA backing for £110m Dounreay dump

Friday, July 25, 2008

SCOTLAND'S environment regulator has given a boost to plans to build a new low-active nuclear dump at Dounreay.

The £110 million scheme earmarked for ground adjoining the former fast-reactor complex is being fought by residents of the small adjoining settlement at Buldoo. But the Scottish Environment Protection Agency on Wednesday gave notice of its conditional backing for the development.

It followed an 18-month probe in which SEPA officials pored over the planning application submitted by Dounreay Site Restoration Limited.

DSRL wants the underground vaults to store up to 175,000 cubic metres of lightly contaminated solid debris from both Dounreay and the adjoining MoD site at Vulcan.

SEPA has told Highland Council planners that it supports the application subject to a number of conditions. These cover the construction and monitoring of the site, together with waste minimisation and assessments of the impact on groundwater and potential land contamination.

SEPA is also calling for a programme to restore the site. It further believes the planning authority should consider preventing the use of rock-blasting and imposing a condition relating to noise and vibration. The agency has concluded that these provisos, coupled with the regulatory regime with which the dump would have to comply, would allow it to be operated safely.

The development, which would be a first for Scotland, is likely to go before the planning committee towards the end of this year.

SEPA chief executive Campbell Gemmell said finalising its response had been a unique challenge. He said: "It has been a huge and complex task involving more than 40 SEPA staff and external experts."

SEPA has already received an application from DSRL to dispose of radioactive waste in the facilities. Applications for other necessary permits are expected in due course if the council approves the planning application.

The planning application had to be changed earlier this year when it was discovered that the previously preferred site was on a geological faultline.

Residents at Buldoo are committed to opposing the development, which they claim will cause them nuisance and lower property values. They want the dump to be on the licensed nuclear site but DSRL claims that is impossible because of a lack of space and concern over coastal erosion.

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