Unauthorised discharges of radioactive particles

A difficult situation for previous and current owners and operators of Dounreay has been the contamination of Sandside beach neighbouring Dounreay and the immediate foreshore and seabed by radioactive particles (Rodriguez et al., 2005; Rodriguez, 2009). These particles originate from the mechanical cutting operations involved with reprocessing of DMTR fuel and have activities in the range 103-108Bq 137Cs. They are thought to have been unknowingly discharged to sea through the LLLE system during the 1960s and 1970s. The discharges of the particles, although not intended, were nevertheless unauthorised. Although risk studies by UK national institu­tions (Harrison et al. , 2005) indicate there is not a significant risk to the public by the presence of these particles, there is local concern about past discharges and current finds of particles on the publicly accessible beach (208 particles from 1983 to early 2012). The outcome of long-term environ­mental studies, academic reviews and public consultation on how to deal with the problem has been to instigate a programme of recovery of particles in an area of 60 ha of the seabed off Dounreay. The recovery operations are carried out by specialist diving teams using remote controlled seabed vehicles.

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