and Nigg more than 100 kilometres away have been named as possible ports. Concern in the farther towns has led to the formation of Ross-shire against Dounreay Expansion. also objectors at the inquiry. But for the moment concern is greatest over the EDRP‘s less evident effects on other areas. Francis McKie. secretary ofCADE says radioactive waste discharged from Dounreay already reaches the islands. and while this has not yet reached damaging levels. it illustrates the potential danger of a reprocessing plant handling ten times more fuel than present operations.
Like the present much smaller reprocessing plant at Dounreay. EDRP will discharge radioactive efﬂuent into the sea. one kilometre out into 35 metres ofwater. It will expel radioactive gaseous waste through a 60 metre high smokestack. The AEA say the radioactivity level ofthis waste is well below international safety levels. and EDRP will have sophisticated monitors to ensure that.
But the islanders will take some persuading. Francis McKie says the 1977 campaign to prevent uranium mining on Orkney gave people ‘a 9 short. sharp lesson in the tactics of
‘right to say no’
the nuclear industry and they have never forgotten it. It didn‘t take much to get the campaign going. People here have a feeling for the
democratic right to say no. and that‘s
a good feelingto have.‘
At the core of the islanders’ concern is a beliefthat their livelihood — principally fishing. farming and tourism — is threatened. ‘There are 13.000 people in Shetland who make their living from fishing.‘ says Colin Gibson. chairman of Shetland CADE. ‘One accidental discharge. whether actual or perceived. could write that off.‘ Alistair MacLeod ofThe Dunters. an Orkney environmental group says: ‘Sellafield has made the public much more aware. Our farming and fishing are at risk to both pollution and to the public‘s perception that pollution might have occurred.’
But concern over livelihood is equally at the core ofsupport for EDRP. The posters in Thurso shop windows reflect the campaigning work of the Dounreay Action Group. set up three years ago when workers at the plant became concerned at press reports of possible curtailment in the fast breeder reactor programme. They approached local shopkeepers. organisations and individuals for support. ‘When the EDRP proposal came up. we moved in behind it.‘ says Allan Byron. a member of the DAG. In this they are supported by the Pro-Nuclear Group. set up ten years ago by Dr Eric Voice. one of the first members ofscientific staffat Dounreay. ‘The PNG‘s concern is for peOple to understand and be reassured.‘ he says. ‘There is a lot of misinformation about nuclear power. and some outright lying.‘
Dounreay‘s annual salary bill
represents about a third of Caithness‘s total income. It provides 2300 jobs in a county with 30.000 people - an estimated 8000 people are directly dependent on Dounreay wages. The EDRP would not create new jobs. except during its construction. but it would ensure the continuity ofemployment of those already there.
‘People have talked for years about attracting other industry. but few have come and few have stayed as long as Dounreay.‘ says George Bruce. chairman of the Caithness Chamber ofCommerce. ‘We would not put jobs before safety. and we are convinced Dounreay has a good record.‘ Neither he nor anyone else will accept comparison with Sellafield. ‘Sellafield is an old plant. This will be modern with the most up-to-date technology in it.‘ he says.
EDRP‘s backers can feel confident ofstrong support in Caithness. but they could be underestimating the extent ofopposition in the area. Fishermen and farmers have made their objections known. ‘This place
is going to become like the Irish Sea.‘
says George King. a Thurso fisherman who used to work at Dounreay. ‘There are maybe two dozen fishermen in Thurso. nothing compared to the numbers at Dounreay and the money they spend in the town. We are being ignored. but this issue affects the whole Scottish fleet — everyone fishes around here at one time or another.‘ Steve Pottinger who has farmed cattle and sheep near Dounreay for 24 years says: ‘In the early days we knew it was a risk. but because it was an experimental plant. we were prepared to take it for the jobs. But now we are talking about a large-scale waste-plant to employ 300 people. and run by BNFI.. who are making a shocking job at Sellafield. I know damn well the dangers of products getting a bad reputation and the effect an accident could have on land values. The sad fact is that when they do discover something wrong. it will be too late.‘
The Scottish Fishermens‘ Association will be objecting. The local National Farmers‘ Union branch are maintaining their objection. despite a postal vote by members narrowly in favour of EDRP. until they get ‘sufficient assurances‘ about safety.
But the Wick-based Nuclear Reprocessing Concern Group. Pottinger and others think there is support for the objection which is keeping quiet just now.
George Calder. a self-employed joiner in Castledown. is openly opposed to EDRP — ‘The smallest amount ofwaste is too much‘ — and believes CADE and others are
1 slowly starting to have an inﬂuence.
‘They don‘t have too much support now. but by the end ofthe inquiry they will have a good number behind them.‘
The objectors even claim support within Dounreay. ‘l have had one anonymous phonecall after another. from Dounreay workers. saying they
are behind us. Some have sent us documents.‘ says Francis McKie. (During the inquiry. the objectors produced a health and safety document leaked to them from inside Dounreay. ‘They are worried about their own health . and they are scared of carrying problems back to their families.‘
Attempts to persuade people for or against EDRP return repeatedly to certain key questions. All are too complex to be answered with a single punch. ls Dounreay safe at the moment? Douglas McRoberts. senior information officer at the plant says Dounreay‘s radioactive emissions are 6 per cent of the maximum set by the Scottish Development Department. which is itselfmuch more stingent than international standards. CADE and others say the monitoring process itselfis ﬂawed. ‘Biologists and marine biologists are trying to tell the nuclear industry “you are discharging more than you realise“.‘ says Francis McKie. ‘The waste is not dispersing as expected. but accumulating in irregular clusters. so some areas get an overdose.‘
Can greater safety be guaranteed at ED RP? The applicants are confident it can. ‘Dounreay will be built to higher standards than Sellafield.'says McRoberts. ‘It will use fast reactor fuel which is more concentrated. smaller in volume and easier to monitor. By the mid-1990s the technology we have could be even better.‘ He says when Dounreay introduced their second experimental fast reactor in 1974. greater amounts ofwaste and plutonium were processed with reduced amounts of discharged activity. Aberdeen University‘s Centre for Environmental Management and Planning. consultant for the Shetland Council say much of the AEA‘s study of the potential impact ofEDRP is ‘questionable both in terms of content and topics not considered
Is the fast breeder reactor programme worth it? ‘These are the reactors ofthe future.‘ says Dr Voice. The AEA point to their 50 times better use of uranium. of which ‘commercially available supplies are limited.‘ SCRAM. the Scottish Campaign to Resist the Atomic Menace. say the price of uranium has fallen by 50 per cent in the past six years. while reprocessing costs have gone up by a factor of ten. There are uranium reserves to last well into the 21st century and pursuing a fast reactor programme. which has cost £2500 million to date. diverts resources which could develop energy sources like wind. wave and solar power.
The framework of the local planning inquiry itselfhas been criticised. because it examines whether a development meets certain standards. but not whether the standards themselves are adequate. The economic justification for the fast breeder reactor programme and the effectiveness ofexisting monitoring
standards are not at issue.
Groups like Greenpeace. Friends ofthe Earth and Scram are boycotting the inquiry. They say the limits are deliberate. a way of sneaking fast breeder reactors in at the back door instead of holding a full inquiry into them as promised in the past. lfthe current inquiry approves EDRP. it could then go ahead without a further inquiry scrutinising detailed plans.
Objector groups taking part in the inquiry have expressed criticisms. ‘This kind of decision should be taken in Parliament. and the need for this development in the first place discussed.‘ says Chris Dowle of the Shetland Council. But. once in. they seem to have their heads down. ‘We decided to participate because local feeling was running high.‘ says Gibson. ‘They would have been very disappointed if their case was not put. We have no illusions about it. but it‘s our only opportunity to object.‘
Their participation seems to test the limits on the inquiry and they have squeezed information out of the nuclear industry in the process. ‘Because we are not legal-minded. we ask questions they don't expect.’ says Gibson. Ironically. there is some impatience with the inquiry on the other side. ‘If this inquiry drags on and we don‘t get this plant. we could be out ofthe fast reactor world.‘ says Dr Voice. ‘The French are ahead in building the reactor and they have the fuel fabrication plant. They don‘t need planning permission for reprocessing and they could go ahead tomorrow.‘
Awareness of the competitiveness of European cooperation makes some believe the EDRP‘s fate will not be settled in Thurso Town Hall. but in the outcome ofcross-channel bargaining. CADE isn‘t really depending on either. ‘We could stop it ifwe could let the rest ofthe country know what‘s going on. but we are being confined to an inquiry here. and we are being ignored by the media. The strategy is to stop people in the south knowing what Dounreay means for them.‘ says Francis McKie.
CADE believes national anti-nuclear groups could do more. ‘We can understand why they are not ' taking part in the inquiry. but we wish they were here.‘ says Gibson. Francis McKie says: ‘Some national groups have fallen into the same trap . as the media. of being in London and looking outwards. We know why they are not at the inquiry. but they haven‘t come to terms with doing other things.‘
The media have treated CADE with ‘vague interest. but not much comprehension. Newsnighrshowed real interest. but they edited it to a minimum and turned it into something out ofcontext about a little community having a tilt at windmills. What we really need is to let the people in Lincolnshire and Bedfordshire know that they could wake up with waste under their l
-. - __“.l
The Listlts’ April- 1 May5