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Radioactive contamination incident revealed at Dounreay


By David G Scott

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AN area of the Dounreay nuclear site was evacuated after radioactive contamination was detected, it has been revealed.

The incident was revealed at a meeting of the Dounreay Stakeholder Group on Wednesday (June 26) and was said to involve the release of "low levels of radioactive contamination" that happened on June 7.

An area of the Dounreay site was evacuated due to a low-level leak. Picture: DSRL / NDA
An area of the Dounreay site was evacuated due to a low-level leak. Picture: DSRL / NDA

A spokesperson for Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd (DSRL) said: "Earlier this month, an employee at Dounreay detected low levels of radioactive contamination during routine personal monitoring while exiting a controlled area.

“As a precaution, work in the area stopped immediately and an investigation was launched. The individual was wearing the correct protective clothing for the area. They have since returned to work and operations have returned to normal."

The spokesperson stressed that there was "no risk" to members of the public or the workforce and "no release to the environment".

Nevertheless, an area of the the site was evacuated as a precautionary measure, it was revealed. The event was rated as "zero", the lowest level on the International Nuclear Event Scale (Ines).

The Ines scale has serious incidents such as Chernobyl and Fukushima at the top of the pyramid rated at seven while others like the less well known leakage from the primary cooling unit of the nuclear plant in Krško, Slovenia, in 2008 are rated zero and referred to as a "deviation".

The International Nuclear Event Scale that was produced in 1990. The Dounreay incident registers at the bottom of the pyramid while serious events like Chernobyl or Fukushima sit at the top.
The International Nuclear Event Scale that was produced in 1990. The Dounreay incident registers at the bottom of the pyramid while serious events like Chernobyl or Fukushima sit at the top.

The DSRL spokesperson said that that the Office for Nuclear Regulation had been informed in "accordance with agreed procedures" and full details of the event were provided at the stakeholder meeting on Wednesday evening.

DSRL has been working to decommission the site, which was shut down in 1994, and tasked with ensuring the area is decontaminated and clean of nuclear waste.

It was censured for a safety violation in 2014, when a fire caused by employees released radioactivity into the atmosphere.

Work is expected to be completed between 2030 and 2033.


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