The public has been assured that a Fife beach contaminated with radioactive debris will be completely safe by 2023.
It is now more than three decades since radioactive particles were first found at the shore near Dalgety Bay Sailing Club.
Contractors finally on site
The project to clear up radioactivity at Dalgety Bay has encountered repeated delays but contractors Balfour Beatty working for the Ministry of Defence finally moved in on Monday.
Dr Paul Dale, Sepa’s radioactive substances specialist, said the long-awaited £10.5 million project would make the beach safe to use again.
People will be able to use the beach freely without any concern about the radioactivity.”
Dr Paul Dale
“The radioactive contamination poses a health hazard to the public, and so it needs to be cleaned up in order for us to remove the restrictions that are in place,” he said.
“The restrictions have been in place, with the signs, since 2006, and tighter restrictions since 2011, when the situation deteriorated.
“Once the site is remediated to Sepa’s satisfaction, we’ll then be able to remove all the restrictions and people will be able to use the beach freely without any concern about the radioactivity.”
Work will take place over the next two, or possibly three, summers with a break in autumn and winter to prevent disturbance to overwintering birds.
It will involve removing material from the beach and scanning it for radioactive particles.
Radioactive particles will be removed and the material returned to the beach.
The headland which was identified as the source of the contamination will be sealed using a membrane and rock armour. A new slipway will be built.
Luminous aircraft dials
Radioactivity at Dalgety Bay was first discovered at the headland in 1990.
To blame are particles containing radium-226, which was in paint used to make aircraft dials luminous.
Studies of the coastline suggest incinerated radioactive waste was dumped prior to 1959, when the nearby airbase HMS Merlin was decommissioned.
Dr Dale said the project could be finished next year.
“It might be done in those two seasons, it might need a third,” he said.
“The important thing is it’s done once and it’s done correctly.
“It’s a permanent solution and that will allow unrestricted use.
“Sepa of course will continue to survey the site and make sure the containment remains effective.
“But there will be no issue in terms of the public being concerned about radioactivity.”
End of ‘years of frustration’ for community
Local SNP councillor David Barratt said the start of the work was a relief for the community.
“It’s been years of frustration. Years of delay after delay after delay,” he said.
“This was discovered over 30 years ago. I’ve only been a councillor for four years and even in that time it’s just been constant false start after false start.
“It’s just a relief that it’s finally getting going.
“It’s the frustration primarily. I was a few months old when this was discovered. I am an example of how long this has taken.
“This project should have been finished by now. Unfortunately the handling by the MoD hasn’t been great and that’s been very frustrating.
“We are confident that it is actually going to fix it once and for all. Sepa has done a really good job of regulating this and making sure that it will be done properly.
“We are confident it will be finished, hopefully within two years but I suspect it could slip into three.”