A plan to store nuclear waste from redundant submarines at Dounreay has been given a hostile reception at a public meeting in Thurso.
Mooring spaces for decommissioned nuclear subs are limited
There are fears that storing redundant nuclear reactors from scrapped submarines in Caithness will lead to the site becoming Britain's permanent radioactive waste dump.
The company behind the scheme wants to cut up old submarines at Devonport, near Plymouth, and ship the 700 tonne reactors to Dounreay.
However, despite being the site of a nuclear facility for almost 50 years, Caithness locals objected to further radioactive waste being brought to the area.
They said that the Plymouth dockyard would be getting all the work and they would just get the waste.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is also considering proposals from three other firms for the lucrative business of storing radioactive parts from decommissioned vessels.
Eleven submarines have already been decommissioned but remain with their reactors intact floating in the docks at Rosyth in Fife and at Devonport.
But space is running out and there are 16 more submarines coming to the end of their working lives.
The owners of the Devonport dockyard want to scrap the submarines at their site and ship them to Dounreay for storage.
Peter Whitehouse, from the Devonport operators DML, said the Plymouth site was not suitable for storing the waste.
He said: "It is a very congested industrial site. There is simply no room there to actually store components of this size.
"You have to look for sites that have the right sort of access, the right sorts of skills and techniques that are required to eventually dismantle them."
He said Dounreay would appear to have the characteristics required.
Caithness councillor Alastair MacDonald said he feared that Dounreay could become the national repository for nuclear waste.
Dounreay has had a nuclear reactor since the 1950s
He said: "There are a lot more submarines around. There are submarines all round Europe. If you find a store for one why not put the others there as well?"
Rev Ronnie Johnson, chaplain at the Dounreay nuclear plant, said: "Devonport is going to get the contract to dismantle these things and what we are going to get is the bits they can do nothing with.
"There is already considerable fear in this county that by accepting the importation of any foreign waste, we are opening the door to become the site for national intermediate level waste depository. Which is not welcome."
The MoD's project manager Brian Hooper denied that a decision on the site had already been made.
He said: "At the moment we have four bids from the various companies and no decision will be made on the way forward for at least three years.
"When we do the evaluation on what bids to take into the final stage, we will take into account the findings of this consultation."
A similar public consultation takes place at Rosyth next week.