An Atomic Bombshell; Nuclear Bosses Ignored Warning over Radioactive Dump Danger at Dounreay

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), April 4, 1999 | Go to article overview

An Atomic Bombshell; Nuclear Bosses Ignored Warning over Radioactive Dump Danger at Dounreay


Byline: BILL MOWAT

BRITAIN'S nuclear bosses were warned more than 30 years ago that Dounreay's notorious waste shaft was unsuitable for dumping deadly radioactive waste, it has been revealed.

The evidence comes in a critical report, carried out for the Government in 1967, which has only now surfaced.

In it, Galashiels-born geologist Jim Dawson stated bluntly the shaft at the Caithness plant was not suitable for the purpose for which it was being used.

His study said: 'It is unlined, too near the coast, and the disturbed nature of the bedrock makes this area unsuitable for waste disposal.' The 213ft deep shaft was bored in the 1950s to get rock debris out of a tunnel being built to carry Dounreay's liquid radioactive wastes 600yds under the Pentland Firth.

Later scientists picked the shaft as a handy place for dumping the radioactive debris of scientific atomic experiments which included the use of material that could have caused an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction.

In 1959 Dounreay was officially licensed as a nuclear waste dump by the Scottish Office.

But it is clear from Mr Dawson's report that no study of the local bedrock was made before consent was granted The expert also stated that in 1967, flooding problems then being encountered 'could have been avoided if early geological investigation and advice had been sought'.

His report, commissioned by the Government's Institute of Geological Sciences, was carried out for the Scottish Office.

But while there was sufficient official concern for the report to be ordered, top bosses with the UK Atomic Energy Authority ignored the advice given in it and continued to use the Dounreay shaft as a dump for a further decade. …

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