Approval of offshore wind farm near Dounreay would be ‘complete madness’ says Caithness community councillor
Credit: By Gordon Calder - 04 January 2023 - johnogroat-journal.co.uk ~~
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A Caithness community councillor has claimed it would be “complete madness” for Marine Scotland to approve an offshore wind farm near Dounreay.
David Craig, of the Caithness West Community Council (CWCC), is concerned that consent for the Pentland Floating Offshore Wind Farm would lead to radioactive particles in the seabed sediments adjacent to the plant being disturbed by drilling and dredging operations.
A two-kilometre fishing exclusion zone was imposed at the Dounreay site as particles from operations at the plant in the 1960s and 70s were found in the area, although Mr Craig claims they have been “undisturbed and relatively safely settled” for over 25 years.
He and his fellow community councillors are concerned that what is described as “offshore support works” for the scheme may have already led to the increase in the number of particles found on the Dounreay foreshore this year.
They are worried that if the application is consented, the construction work would disturb the seabed and release more radioactive particles, making the situation “considerably worse”. Mr Craig claims the particles could spread further afield, including to beaches at Thurso and Dunnet.
He said: “I feel its time to speak up about why these particles have suddenly started appearing, after many years of numbers being reduced. The 2022 numbers were the highest on Dounreay foreshore for 26 years – and that is only based on data for the first three months of this year. I strongly suspect that particles found from April will dwarf those already reported.”
Mr Craig added: “It can’t be complete coincidence that offshore support works for Pentland Floating Offshore Wind Farm, which started in 2021 and stopped at the end of September 2022, has been going on in the area.
“No other ‘unusual’ activities have been taking place in Sandside Bay during this time. To my mind, deliberately allowing disturbance of seabed sediment full of radioactive particles is complete madness.
“If you disturb the seabed in an area where there are radioactive particles, there’s bound to be consequences. The two-kilometre fishing exclusion zone around the site was put in place specifically to stop disturbance of the sediment. We are just appalled this could be going ahead and don’t think Marine Scotland appreciate the issues at all.”
Mr Craig wrote to Marine Scotland last month on behalf of the community council to highlight its concerns but has had no response so far.
In the letter he acknowledges Dounreay is responsible for the historic contamination but claims the recent particle finds are not from any current operations at the site. Mr Craig also points out that Dounreay monitors Sandside beach and adjacent areas.
He suggests “the most likely cause of increased radioactive particle finds” is from the disturbance of seabed sediments by support operations carried out for Pentland Offshore wind farm. “CWCC would request that Marine Scotland note this concern, and consider appropriate action which may be required.”
Mr Craig said if the application is approved construction work is expected to start in 2024 and would involve drilling and dredging operations at 63 anchor locations – nine for each of the seven proposed turbines – resulting in between 100,000 and 150,000 tonnes of material being removed.
“These operations would certainly mobilise undisturbed sediment particles. The stated volumes of material worry CWCC considerably, with respect to potential impact on public health and safety from mobilisation of particles.”
He adds: “Both Marine Scotland and SEPA (the Scottish Environment Protection Agency) have a duty of care towards the people of Caithness, and our environment, and we trust that you will work together and address our concerns, and these issues, quickly.”
Highland Wind Ltd, the company behind the proposal, was contacted for a response but no-one was available to comment.
It has said the 100 megawatt project will create up to 1300 supply chain jobs and deliver £419 million of expenditure in the UK, along with 85 full-time equivalent jobs during the wind farm’s operation.
The company wants to build seven turbines up to 300 metres high to their blade tips around 7.5 kilometres offshore from Dounreay.
As previously reported, project director Richard Copeland, said the development, if approved, would bring “far-reaching benefits” by supporting security of energy supply for the domestic UK market and contributing to a sustainable energy mix
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