Radioactive contamination triggers evacuation at shuttered nuclear site in Scotland

Workers tasked with cleaning the decommissioned Dounreay nuclear facility in northern Scotland were evacuated from the site after “human error” resulted in low-level radioactive contamination, it has been revealed.

After an employee detected the contamination, a further investigation was quickly launched revealing several other “hot-spots” around the facility. Workers were immediately forced to vacate the area and work temporarily suspended, reported the Aberdeen-based Press and Journal.

Site managing director Martin Moore told a stakeholder group on Wednesday that the contamination had been “insignificant,” and was a result of a “lack of due diligence in monitoring around one of the barriers.”

It was human error. It shouldn’t have happened and we’re very disappointed that it did.

The incident actually took place on June 7, but it was only revealed to the public on Wednesday. Some people expressed anger that there was no public statement made on the day it occurred, although the Office for Nuclear Regulation was reportedly informed.

Officials from Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd (DSRL), the company tasked with decommissioning the plant, said that the measure had been precautionary and that the public was never in any danger.

There was no risk to members of the public, no increased risk to the workforce and no release to the environment. 

DSRL has been working to decommission the site, which was shut down in 1994. Although they are also tasked with ensuring the area is decontaminated and clean of nuclear waste, they have already been censured for a safety violation at the same site in 2014, when a fire caused by employees released radioactivity into the atmosphere.

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