'We don't want nuclear waste dump built near our homes'

Saturday, July 26, 2008

PEOPLE living near the Dounreay nuclear plant say they will fight plans for a waste dump close to their homes, despite the scheme winning the conditional backing of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

Sepa says it supports proposals for a £110 million underground low-level radioactive waste store – the first of its type in Scotland – provided seven planning conditions are imposed to protect people and the environment.

But householders in Buldoo, Caithness, are trying to stop the construction of up to six shallow storage vaults, which they say would be outside Dounreay's licensed site and only 430 metres from the nearest house. They want a public inquiry.

The vaults would be part of the £2.9 billion decommissioning of Dounreay. Already, 38,000 cubic metres of low-level waste have been stored on the site, but storage there is nearing capacity and decommissioning will produce up to 175,000 cubic metres more. The Scottish Government has ruled out disposing of the waste elsewhere.

The site operator, Dounreay Site Restoration, applied for planning permission for the vaults in 2006 and, if approved, they could be used by 2014. The waste would be stored in drums and put inside cement-lined containers and then buried in a shallow covered pit.

A public consultation has closed and Highland Council will consider the application later this year.

Sepa says it will object unless the council imposes conditions that cover the construction and monitoring of the site as well as assessments of the impact on land contamination and on ground and surface water. It also wants the council to consider conditions to prevent the use of blasting during excavations and to control noise and vibration.

But John Webster, a retired probation officer and Buldoo resident, said: "We hope the council will remember they are supposed to be looking after the welfare of the residents and consider whether its a good idea to dump this stuff on this site."

He added: "We were not surprised by Sepa's comments but are glad that a variety of fairly strict planning conditions were suggested. These indicate that Sepa might well think it's not going to be very nice living close to this dump."

Duncan McLaren, the chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: "We would support local residents in encouraging the Dounreay operators to fully consider locating the facility on the existing licensed site, before turning to a 'near-site' solution like this."

A Dounreay spokesman said the facility had to be built off the existing site because of a lack of space and the threat of coastal erosion. He said they recognised people's concerns and would try to minimise the effect the store would have on Buldoo residents.

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