Was contaminated dust released at nuclear site?

Nuclear sites such as power stations have long created controversy because of the gases and dust that they emit. There is also a significant body of evidence to suggest that people living near such places are more likely to develop breathing difficulties (including asthma) and even cancers.

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Dounreay incident 2019

The fallout from the minor incident in February 2019 at Dounreay (the nuclear power development establishment on the north coast of Scotland) saw a further twist when investigators ruled that multiple regulatory conditions had been contravened.

It emerged that during the testing of the ventilation system at the complex, the allegedly contaminated dust was disturbed and released into the atmosphere. However, investigators also stated that, despite the contraventions, no discharge limits were breached and that any possible environmental impact was very low.

The incident was investigated by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) who had been informed by Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd (DSRL).

Where is Dounreay?

Dounreay is situated on the north coast of Caithness, in the Highlands area of Scotland.

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What is the facility?

The site houses five nuclear reactors, three owned and operated by the UKAEA and two by the MoD. The five reactors are:
– The Dounreay Materials Test Reactor (DMTR)
– The Dounreay Fast Reactor (DFR)
– The Prototype Fast Reactor (PFR)
– The Dounreay Submarine Prototype 1 (DSMP1)
– The Shore Test Facility (STF)

Dounreay is in the process of being decommissioned and the land is to be cleaned up.

What is contaminated land remediation?

Contaminated land remediation is essentially restoring contaminated land back to its pre-contaminated state by ensuring that contamination is removed as well as making sure that whatever was causing the issue is permanently fixed. There are a number of companies in the UK that specialise in contaminated land remediation who can give advice on the issue.

It is estimated that as many as 100,000 sites in England in Wales are affected to some degree by land contamination – up to 20% of which may need action to mitigate risks to human health and the environment. The cost of cleaning-up these sites is estimated at between £9-20 billion in total.

This remediation process can be used to restore land that has previously been seen as unusable for building on.

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