Salmond demands apology over Dounreay radiation

Picture: Jane Barlow
Picture: Jane Barlow
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ALEX Salmond has called for an apology from David Cameron for failing to tell Scottish ministers about a radiation problem at a nuclear submarine test reactor.

The First Minister said the UK Government had “disrespected” Holyrood and the people of Scotland by not alerting the Scottish Government to the problem for almost two years.

UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond revealed on Thursday that HMS Vanguard, is to have its reactor refuelled at a cost of £120 million after a test reactor was found to have a small internal leak of radiation.

He told the Commons the work was being carried out after “low levels of radioactivity were detected in a prototype core” at the Naval Reactor Test Establishment at Dounreay, Caithness, in 2012.

Hammond said the test reactor had been shut down after the fault was detected and both the independent Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency had been informed.

Scottish Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead was notified shortly before Hammond’s statement, the Scottish Government said.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Salmond accused Westminster of ignoring its responsibility for good communication under the Memorandum of Understanding on Devolution.

Opposition politicians have also called for a parliamentary inquiry into the handling of the radiation leak.

Public confidence has been damaged by the incident at Dounreay, according to shadow defence secretary Vernon Coaker and shadow Scottish secretary Margaret Curran.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “As we have consistently made clear, the announcement was about the decision to re-fuel HMS Vanguard, not the issue at Dounreay, where regulators judged the reactor continues to operate safely.”