Lochhead plans Parliamentary Statement on Dounreay radiation incident


  By a Newsnet reporter
Scottish Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead is to make a parliamentary statement this Tuesday on the radiation incident at the UK Government’s Vulcan Nuclear Reactor Test Establishment at Dounreay.

The minister is concerned that the Scottish people, the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government were kept in the dark on the issue by the Ministry of Defence after the ministry ordered a Scottish organisation not to inforn Scottish ministers.

Mr Lochhead also plans to tell Parliament of concerns the MoD told both the ScottishEnvironment Protection Agency (SEPA) and the UK Office for Nuclear Regulation that the incident be kept on a strict need to know basis for security reasons; and his concern that Defence Secretary Philip Hammond informed the House of Commons that there has been no measurable change in radiation discharge, something the environment agencies report contradicts.

First Minister Alex Salmond has already written to Prime Minister David Cameron regarding delays in being informed about the radiation incident at the nuclear submarine test reactor.

Commenting 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, and I plan to raise our concern in a statement to the Scottish Parliament this week.

“It is important that the public and Scottish Parliament are kept informed and it is unacceptable for the Ministry of Defence to put SEPA in such a difficult position once they were eventually notified by asking them not to make information about this situation more widely known for security reasons.

“The UK Office for Nuclear Regulation report that they were given the same instructions as SEPA in this regard.

“I am also concerned that the information provided by the Defence Secretary to the House of Commons last week – around there being no measurable change in radiation discharge -was incorrect.

“However, the public should be reassured by the fact that no wider environmental impacts have been identified. SEPA’s role is to highlight potential for adverse wider environmental impact and I can reassure the public that they have not identified any, but will continue to closely monitor the situation.

“What is far less reassuring is the way in which the UK Government has handled this incident.

“The First Minister has already sought an immediate explanation of why there was a delay in informing the Scottish Government, and a reassurance that it will never happen again.”

Commenting on a report in the Sunday Herald that the Westminster Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond, was wrong to claim that no radiation emissions had occurred at the naval nuclear reactor near Dounreay the SNP’s Westminster leader and defence spokesperson Angus Robertson MP said:

“This shocking turn of events leaves Philip Hammond with some very serious questions to answer. Not only does it look as if he has misled parliament – he has misled it on the extremely serious matter of nuclear emissions – which will send a shiver down the spine of everyone in Scotland. It has taken nearly two years for the Westminster government to even tell the Scottish government about problems at the nuclear facility – now it looks as if there is a cover up and the full facts are still not known.

“It is absolutely unacceptable. I will take the earliest possible opportunity to get a full explanation about this from Philip Hammond. He has to come clean about what happened at Dounreay.

“We should be rid of the nuclear menace in Scotland. The churches – civic society – the trades unions and a majority of all of Scotland’s elected representatives have consistently and clearly said we do not want to be home to Westminster’s vast nuclear arsenal.

“On this issue our concerns are shared by environmental groups including Friends of the Earth Scotland and Scottish CND.

“Westminster, with these obscene, immoral and vastly expensive weapons of mass destruction, are treating the people of Scotland with contempt. This makes it even more essential that we vote Yes in September. It is the only way we can be sure that we get rid of Trident for good.”

The episode has also been slammed by environmentalists. Dr Richard Dixon, Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said:

“Philip Hammond has some very serious questions to answer. He categorically stated that no radioactivity was released to the environment, we now know that this is definitely not true. Either the MoD misled him or he misled the House of Commons. Either way some-one should be losing their job.

“The MoD have once again displayed their arrogant disregard for the public by waiting many months before informing their regulators that there was a problem. They compounded this by telling those regulators to keep the news a secret. It is hard to see how anyone can take assurances about nuclear safety from the MoD seriously when they clearly think it is fine to just keep quiet about the embarrassing bits.”

Commenting on the Scottish Government’s announcement that they will not allow old submarine reactor parts to be dumped at Chapelcross, Dr Dixon said:

“Good on the Scottish Government for rejecting the UK’s military nuclear waste. It is bad enough that Scotland has been home to nuclear weapons of mass destruction for decades, it would be an extra insult to have to store thousands of tonnes of radioactive waste from defunct nuclear subs. The UK Government would love to have it both ways but they control military spending so they should deal with the resulting nuclear nightmare they have created.”