Dump plan decision due next month

Friday, November 28, 2008

HIGHLAND Councillors in the Far North will next month make their minds up about a new, low-active nuclear dump planned for Dounreay.

The development earmarked for land to the immediate south of the licensed site is being tabled at a meeting in Halkirk on December 17.

Planning officials are expected to recommend conditional approval of the £110 million scheme despite fierce opposition from residents of the adjoining small settlement of Buldoo.

The six underground concrete vaults are designed to hold up to 175,000 cubic metres of low-active solid debris from Dounreay and the adjoining Ministry of Defence plant at Vulcan. Officials have been exploring ways of making approval of the plan dependent on the operation of a community benefit fund.

Senior council planning officer David Mudie said the development complies with UK and Scottish Government policy on low-active waste disposal. But he said it departs from the council policy guideline that the waste is capable of being retrieved.

While this could be done during the scheduled operation of the facility, he said it would not be possible once it was closed.

The application has been given conditional approval by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

The Buldoo residents are up in arms about the disturbance and nuisance they claim they would be subjected to during the construction and operation of the dump.

If members of Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross planning applications and review committee reject the plans, this would almost certainly trigger a public inquiry. Should they give the go-ahead, the application would be referred for a final decision by Scottish ministers.

The community fund is being pushed by Dounreay Stakeholder Group, the liaison group between site operators Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd and the community.

It wants the Dounreay travel-to-work area to secure similar benefits to those of residents living near the low-active radioactive waste dump at Drigg in Cumbria.

Its extension is set to net neighbouring communities a down payment of £10 million, plus £1.5 million a year in Government-funded "sweeteners".

DSG, which represents 20 community groups, has been working behind the scenes to come up with a Caithness package.

The annual payments would stretch over the lifetime of the dump, which is scheduled to open in 2014.

The planning application had to be changed earlier this year when it was discovered that the previously preferred site was on a geological faultline.

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