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Scottish nuclear leak ‘will never be completely cleaned up’ via the guardian.co.uk

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency has abandoned its aim to remove all traces of contamination from the north coast seabed

Radioactive contamination that leaked for more than two decades from the Dounreay nuclear plant on the north coast of mainland Scotland will never been completely cleaned up, a Scottish government agency has admitted.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) has decided to give up on its aim of returning the seabed near the plant to a “pristine condition”. To do so, it said, could cause “more harm than good”.

At a board meeting in Stirling on Tuesday, the Scottish government’s environmental watchdog opted to encourage remediation “as far as is practically achievable” but to abandon any hope of removing all the radioactive pollution from the seabed.

Tens of thousands of radioactive fuel fragments escaped from the Dounreay plant between 1963 and 1984, polluting local beaches, the coastline and the seabed. Fishing has been banned within a two-kilometre radius of the plant since 1997.

The most radioactive of the particles are regarded by experts as potentially lethal if ingested. Similar in size to grains of sand, they contain caesium-137, which has a half-life of 30 years, but they can also incorporate traces of plutonium-239, which has a half-life of over 24,000 years – meaning that is the time period for half of the material to break down.

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