Radioactive beach: Dalgety Bay clean-up bid could start sooner than anticipated

Clean-up of radioactive waste at Dalgety Bay could happen sooner than first thought.
Warning signs posted at Dalgety Bay beach (Pic: TSPL)Warning signs posted at Dalgety Bay beach (Pic: TSPL)
Warning signs posted at Dalgety Bay beach (Pic: TSPL)

Environment body SEPA says it is now satisfied that it can start processing the application for a licence to remove material from the beach near Dalgety Bay Sailing Club.

While SEPA says these applications can take up to four months to process, it is understood that Balfour Beatty, the Ministry of Defence-appointed contractor for the works, wants to start on the site as early as April 1. The MoD said earlier this month that works would start in July.

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Local councillor David Barratt (SNP) is seeking clarification on the issue amid what he branded "chaotic" messaging from the contractor to date.

"It is welcome news that SEPA he now validated the application, and I hope that it does manage turn it around quicker than the normal four months," he said.

"A start date of April 1 assumes SEPA can cut its usual four months down to two weeks. It's not impossible, but it's very optimistic.

"Let's hope the MoD's new start date of April 1 doesn't make them look like April Fools."

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A letter sent by UK defence procurement minister Jeremy Quin to local MP Neale Hanvey says SEPA will "endeavour to determine the application as quickly as resources allow."

Mr Hanvey, the SNP member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, says that while "relieved", he won't start celebrating until the works have broken ground.

He added: “The determination and efforts of local folk, community groups and politicians such as councillor David Barratt and my predecessor Roger Mullin have brought us so close before.

"It will be that collective effort to hold the MoD’s feet to the fire that should be remembered and celebrated when the work finally gets underway this summer.”

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The Dalgety Bay saga stretches back to the 1990s, when coastal erosion exposed radioactive materials that had been landfilled sometime prior to the town's construction in 1965.

Radium-226, a luminescent material, had been used to coat the dials of instruments in the cockpits of wartime airplanes that were incinerated at a nearby airfield and buried on the coast.

While the cordoned-off beach does not present a danger to the public, direct exposure to the materials could give off a radiation dose equivalent to 5,000 chest x-rays.

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