Highlands & Islands

Councils to get some Dounreay-Sellafield train details

Dounreay
Image caption It would cost £65m to deal with the material at Dounreay

Councils would be advised in advance about the movement of nuclear fuel from Dounreay by rail, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has said.

The NDA has sought approval from two independent regulatory bodies for its plan to transport breeder material to Sellafield for reprocessing.

Local authorities would receive some information to pass on to communities.

However, the NDA said the exact timings of the trains and security measures would remain confidential.

Friends of the Earth Scotland has opposed the rail plan and said the material should be stored at Dounreay in Caithness.

Dounreay's other materials containing plutonium are the subject of an NDA assessment of how best to manage it.

One of the options is to transport it to Sellafield.

The NDA is expected to publish a paper on the assessment early next year.

A NDA spokesman said the breeder material involved in the current plan was a fuel and not waste.

He told the BBC News Scotland website that the authority appreciated there there were sensitivities about nuclear power following problems at Japan's Fukushima plant after a massive earthquake.

The spokesman said transporting material was "nothing new" and shipments had been made to and from Dounreay for half a century by rail, road and plane.

The first of about 50 movements of the breeder material by rail to Sellafield over a period of four to five years could start next summer.

Approval for the plan to shift the 44 tonnes of fuel has been sought from the Office for Nuclear Regulation and Office for Civil Nuclear Regulation.

Earlier this year, the NDA set out its options for the breeder material in a public consultation document.

The paper reported that handling the fuel at Sellafield would be cheaper than dealing with it at Dounreay where a new reprocessing plant and store would have to be built.

The safety record for transporting nuclear material was proven and any employment generated from managing it at the Scottish site would be short-term, according to the document.

Friends of the Earth Scotland's chief executive Stan Blackley told BBC Radio Scotland that his group would prefer to see the fuel kept at Dounreay.

He said transporting nuclear material was "unnecessary and risky and with enormous potential for accidents, or a mistake".

Mr Blackley added: "This is a silent menace that is going to go under the darkness of night past people's doors."

"We feel the existing nuclear waste should be secured on site and the benefit of doing that is it would keep the related activity and jobs in the local economy."

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