[ RadSafe ] US team to clean beach at Dounreay
Dawson, Fred Mr
Fred.Dawson199 at mod.uk
Thu Sep 28 05:17:25 CDT 2006
Sunday Times reports US team to clean beach at Dounreay
MARK MACASKILLTHE owner of a beach contaminated by radioactive debris from the Dounreay nuclear research facility has given up on government promises to clean it and is planning to hire American scientists to do it instead.
Geoffrey Minter, who owns the 10,000-acre Sandside estate in Caithness has accused the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) of "dragging its feet" over its obligation to clear his land of deadly fragments of the plant's fuel rods.
Minter has met scientists in Atlanta, Georgia, who have worked closely with the US energy department to clear up contaminated sites. The team, led by Joseph Shonka, uses computers to detect radioactive particles and then disposes of them by means of diggers, conveyor belts and giant filters that can clean up to 250 tons of soil an hour. Shonka estimates that Sandside beach could be cleaned within a year at a fraction of the £70 billion costs forecast by the UKAEA. The move follows criticism over the UKAEA's handling of Dounreay, where hundreds of thousands of radioactive particles are thought to have entered the environment from a leak in an underwater waste tunnel.
Since November 1983 more than 900 particles have been found on the sea bed and 240 on the foreshore at Dounreay. Another 68 have been retrieved on the adjoining Sandside beach. Minter said: "The UKAEA has been plodding along for years, there's desperately little happening and I've decided to take this problem by the scruff of the neck. "I want to see a solution to this problem but I don't have any confidence that UKAEA can be left to its own devices to find one. In terms of how to tackle nuclear pollution, scientists in America are a good 10 years ahead of us."
In addition to cleaning Sandside beach, Shonka is expected to investigate the possibility of retrieving the underwater particles that are intermittently washed up. About 2,000 of the most dangerous particles, each no bigger than a grain of sand but capable of burning a hole in skin, are thought to be buried in sediment on the seabed.
Scientists in Britain believe it could take three years to recover the leaked deposits using divers but warn that the task is so risky that lives could be lost carrying it out. Another option is to allow the particles to decay naturally, a process that could take up to 100 years.
Since the mid-1990s the UKAEA has monitored Sandside beach in an effort to determine the extent of contamination. The agency denied Minter's accusations and insisted that a range of options to retrieve particles were being investigated. It said four companies had been invited to bid for the contract next year.------------------------------
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