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If we bury today the repulsive nuclear wastes, why do we pass it on to others to deal with?

At the recent local elections three of the five candidates for the West
Caithness ward listed on their leaflets building more nuclear reactors at
Dounreay alongside complaints about potholes in the roads as their
priorities. They all got in. None of them took up my suggestion that they
could fill all the potholes in Caithness with nuclear waste.

I suspect none of them had given much thought to nuclear waste at all, which is something
they had in common with the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority when
they built Dounreay in the 1950’s.

Unfortunately the waste problem is now
critical, in more ways than one. The Dounreay dome, the reactor protective
casing structure, also known as the sphere and the golf ball, has been a
feature of the north Caithness coast for almost 60 years. The Nuclear
Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has recommended that the DFR be
decontaminated by 2022 (the schedule has slipped) so it can then be

In 2007, Dounreay Site Restoration Limited (DSRL), the company
that manages the site, released the results of public consultation on
future uses for the dome. Suggestions included turning it into a hotel,
museum and even a nightclub.

However, because the structure is contaminated
with worrying levels of radioactivity and due to high maintenance costs, it
was decided to demolish it. So, sadly, no glowing raves or very long
radioactive sleeps or trips back into a memory that begins in 1955 and will
never end as the nuclear waste, dome and all, will be buried at a nuclear
dump site at nearby Buldoo.

What language, I wonder, will they put on the
steel door of this addition to the ancient burial mound culture of
Caithness? At an underground facility, a bit like Buldoo, assuringly called
“The Waste Isolation Plant”, the US government buries all kinds of
nasty waste from its nuclear weapons production 600 metres below the rocks
of New Mexico. In 20 years time, when the dump has been stuffed to the
gunnels with nuclear crap, the US government will have to seal the steel
and concrete entrances and place signs saying “Danger Zone!” all around

The problem, as Serhii Plokhy, the author of “Atoms and Ashes: From
Bikini Atoll to Fukushima”, has pointed out, is that the underground
store will still be contaminated in 300,000 years, and no one can predict
what language our descendants will read or speak at that time, or what
messages might convince them not to dig into the New Mexico rocks. In the
1990s nuclear security experts proposed symbols, earthworks and mounds of
rubble designed to convey an appropriate sense of menace to anyone
stumbling on the area.

The intended message the US government wanted to
broadcast was: “This place is not a place of honour. No highly esteemed
deed is commemorated here. Nothing valued is here. What is here was
dangerous and repulsive to us. This message is a warning about danger.”
The hard question Serhii Plokhy, who is also a professor of Ukrainian
history at Harvard University where he also serves as the director of the
Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, asks is, “If what we bury today in
the New Mexico desert – the waste created by our nuclear ambitions – is
so repulsive to us, why do we pass it on to others to deal with?”

 Bella Caledonia 2nd June 2022

June 4, 2022 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, wastes

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