Radioactive contamination discovered at three more Scottish sites


By a Newsnet reporter
Three more military sites in Scotland have been found to be contaminated with radioactive material it has emerged today.
A report in today’s Scottish Sunday Express has revealed that sites at former RAF Kinloss in Moray, an RAF base in Machrihanish, Argyll and an aviation repair factory near Perth have been left with a legacy of radium contamination.

The SNP’s UK environment spokesman Mike Weir MP asked Defence Minister Andrew Robathan in October to list all the locations where radium had been buried.  However Mr Robathan failed to do so.

The discovery of three more contaminated sites only came to light following a freedom of information request by the Scottish Sunday Express following a secret report said to have been carried out by UK officials that had identified 13 ‘radium hotspots’ in the UK.

The contaminated material is said by authorities to be the paint used to coat aircraft dials to allow them to be viewed at night.

The emergence of further radioactive contamination follows growing anger over similar pollution discovered at Dalgety Bay where hundreds of contaminated fragments were discovered by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA).

Some of the contaminated material is said to be so potent that it could cause burns to skin if touched.

The situation at the Fife beach has led to growing anger over the refusal of the Ministry of Defence to accept responsibility and to decontaminate the affected area.  SEPA has warned that a refusal by the ministry will see the area designated a contaminated area and closed – the first time such a decision will have been taken in Scotland.

Last week Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described the MoD’s handling of the situation at Dalgety Bay “entirely unacceptable”. 

The Scottish government’s Cabinet Secretary for rural affairs and the environment Richard Lochhead has already written twice to the UK Secretary of State for defence urging the MoD to take immediate action, but has yet to receive a reply.

Ms Sturgeon added:

“No reply has yet been received and it is vital that the MOD respond without any further delay with a credible plan for how they will act to address this situation.”

Following the emergence of a further three sites affected by radioactive contamination, the SNP called for ‘total transparency’ from the Ministry of Defence.

Mike Weir, whose questions to the UK Minister led to the sites being named, said:

“Given the failure of the MoD to take responsibility for the contamination at Dalgety Bay, it is clearly worrying that other locations where soil polluted by radium have been identified.

“The behaviour of the Ministry of Defence has been evasive and shifty, with Ministers refusing to provide the information that has now emerged from an FOI request to the Defence Infrastructure Organisation.

“We now need total transparency as well as immediate action to clean up any hazard that exists to public health.

“The communities that are affected deserve total transparency and the Ministry of Defence must accept its clear responsibility to establish the facts and take action clean up any contamination.”

The Dalgety Bay discoveries were made after the MoD had conducted a survey of the area in September, discovering only 33 radioactive fragments. 

SEPA scientists carried out their own survey and discovered over four hundred contaminated fragments, some 76 times more radioactive than the previous discoveries.  SEPA’s radioactive specialist Dr Paul Dale said he had doubts over the MoD survey.

The Ministry of Defence has been avoiding dealing with the clean-up of pollution from old military planes for over 20 years and is reported to have played down possible health effects for members of the public.

Official minutes from a meeting in 2009 revealed MoD scientists had refused to handle the material due to concerns that it could cause cancer.