TRAINS will start transporting spent nuclear material from Dounreay through the Highlands in the summer – but the exact times and dates will not be disclosed because of terrorist attack fears.
The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has confirmed trains carrying the breeder material will travel through the region, including Inverness, from the decommissioned Caithness nuclear power station to Sellafield in England for reprocessing.
The plant, which is scheduled to closed down by 2025, cannot store the material long-term.
Adrian Simper, NDA’s head of strategy, said publicising the schedule could increase the risk of terrorist targeting the trains.
"Why would we provide that additional information?" said Mr Simper. "That would be helpful to terrorist and make it an easier target."
However, Mr Simper admitted the number of rail lines it could use through the region were limited.
Mr Simper said he understood the public’s interest in the journeys but insisted it was a relatively benign material and the movement was "highly regulated."
He stressed the material was not nuclear waste and said it had kept Highland Council and Scottish Government fully updated of its plans.
The material will be stored in steel containers weighing 55 tonnes, with the lid alone 10 tonnes in weight.
They will be towed by one train and accompanied by a back-up train if the first one fails for any reason.
Dr Simper discussed the plans with Highland Council’s transport, environmental and community services committee in Inverness.
He told them 94 journeys would be made over the next five to six years.
Councillor David Flear, vice-chairman of the Dounreay Stakeholder Group, said he backed the transportation plans and described the scrutiny as reassuring for Highland communities.
"This is not waste," Councillor Flear (Landward Caithness) said. "This is spent fuel. I think this is the only option and it’s going to be highly regulated and scrutinised."