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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 March 2006, 12:07 GMT
Landowner criticises beach report
Geoffrey Minter
Geoffrey Minter went to court after particles were found on his beach
A landowner has disputed a report's findings that the risk to human health from nuclear fuel particles found on his beach near the Dounreay is 'low'.

Geoffrey Minter owns Sandside Beach, which was subject to a study commissioned by environment body Sepa.

He said he 'doubted' if the public would be reassured by the environment agency report.

It said the chances of someone being exposed to a particle were 'one in a million per year'.

Mr Minter, who went to court after radioactive particles were found on the beach, hit out at the findings of the Sepa report.

He said: "For instance, it says that 'any effect on human health is likely to be short term'.

'Skin damage'

"Short term or not, most reasonable people would expect to be able to stroll on Sandside Beach without any risk to their health.

"Sepa also report that coming into contact with some particles could cause skin damage.

"There would also be an even greater risk if a particle lodged in someone's eyes, ears or became trapped in a skin fold while wearing a wetsuit."

"The truth remains that the operators of the Dounreay atomic research plant have polluted the beach at Sandside and have so far - despite rulings by the courts and government ministers - failed to clear up the mess they have created or taken steps to halt further contamination."

Dounreay sign
The issue has been the subject of court proceedings

Mr Minter's case reached the Court of Session in Edinburgh in 2003.

In a written decision, the judge, Lady Paton, said the law did not allow her to order the detailed clean-up which Mr Minter had demanded in place of the current monitoring regime.

But she held that the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), which operates the Dounreay plant, had failed its duty under the Nuclear Installations Act 1965.

Lady Paton said UKAEA must ensure that nuclear material causes no injury or damage to property.

She added that, despite the stress and anxiety claimed by the Minters and the effect on their property, no personal injury had been suffered.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA), which Sepa commissioned to do the research, said particles found so far on the Caithness beach were relatively low in activity.

However, Sepa warned that fragments of greater activity had been found offshore.

About 50 particles have been found on Sandside since 1984.

Sepa commissioned HPA to study the risks of being exposed to a particle and the chances of coming into contact with one.

The report said: "The results indicate that the probability of encountering a fuel fragment on Sandside Beach is less than one in a million per year."

The odds of encountering one of the larger particles rose to less than one in 80 million.

Risk of Dounreay particles 'low'
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'Nuclear particle' find on beach
26 Mar 05 |  Scotland

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