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Dounreay reactor fault: Statement due from Richard Lochhead

By DPF Admin11th March 2014August 6th, 2019Area Updates, Latest News, Northern Updates

Scottish Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead is to make a statement to MSPs about a radiation problem at a nuclear test reactor in the Highlands.

On Thursday UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said a radioactive discharge had been discovered at the Vulcan reactor at Dounreay in 2012.

However, the Scottish government has said it was not informed at the time of the incident. First Minister Alex Salmond has demanded an apology from Number 10.

Mr Hammond told the House of Commons that “low levels of radioactivity were detected” in the cooling waters of a reactor at the Naval Reactor Test Establishment in 2012.

As a result HMS Vanguard, the UK's oldest nuclear-armed submarine, is to have its reactor refuelled at a cost of £120m. The defence secretary said the independent Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) were informed.

The Scottish government said Mr Lochhead was only notified shortly before Mr Hammond's statement, and alleged that Sepa had been told by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) not to make the information more widely available.

Scottish ministers have argued that, while responsibility for defence is reserved to Westminster, the involvement of Sepa means the incident impacted on environmental matters, for which the Scottish Parliament has responsibility under devolution.

Mr Salmond has written to David Cameron to ask for an explanation for the delay in informing the Scottish government.

Mr Lochhead said: “There must be complete openness and transparency on any nuclear-related incident of this nature that relates to activities on Scottish territory, given the potential environmental impact.

“It is therefore totally unacceptable for the UK government to keep the Scottish people, the Scottish Parliament and Scottish government in the dark on the incident at Dounreay's Vulcan establishment.” The MoD has denied that Sepa was ordered to withhold information from the Scottish government.

Mr Lochhead's ministerial statement can be watched live at BBC Scotland's Democracy Live website, from 16:15 11/03/14

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