By Bob Duncan

Residents in Kinloss may be at risk from land which is contaminated by radioactive radium, buried decades ago by the Ministry of Defence and not disclosed by the MoD when the land was later sold on.

Public safety fears were raised by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) after they found dangerously high levels of radiological activity at the former RAF Kinloss base and another five Ministry of Defence sites across Scotland, some of which were no longer owned by the MoD, but had been sold for possible development.

The agency is also currently investigating possible radioactive contamination at a further three as yet undisclosed sites, which if confirmed, would take the total to nine.

SEPA has drawn attention to a number of “Land Quality Assessments”, environmental studies carried out for the MoD, which report on land used by the military to dispose of World War II aircraft in the 1940s and 1950s.  Over a thousand aircraft were “bashed, burned and buried” in areas within RAF Kinloss, some of the land has since been sold privately.

The instruments and displays in the cockpits of these aircraft contain large amounts of radioactive radium, which had been used to create a “glow in the dark” effect on the instrumentation.  Parts of these aircraft are clearly visible on the surface of land which was formerly part of the Kinloss base.

According to SEPA, authorities have been aware of “potential human health and environmental risks” at RAF Kinloss since at least 2004, adding that “radiological contamination could extend to land which was sold and is no longer part of the base”.

The Ministry of Defence has so far made no comment concerning the contaminated land outside the base, stating only that "RAF Kinloss is considered suitable for its current use".

An MoD spokesman said that “a review of the quality of the land at RAF Kinloss was already under way, ahead of the transfer of the base to the Army”, adding that “The MoD is committed to assessing land quality across the entire defence estate”.

There is a great deal of anger within the Scottish Government about these revelations, and the fact that they seem to have been covered up for such a long time by the MoD.  Richard Lockhead MSP, cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment has now written to the UK Secretary of State for Defence, Philip Hammond, demanding answers.

Commenting, Mr Lockhead said residents living nearby deserved an explanation:

“It's very clear that here we have another case where we need absolute transparency from the MoD – full disclosure.

"We have to understand what the situation is at that site, particularly if it is the case that we're talking about land that has been sold off and is no longer owned by the MoD.  People living there, or close by, will want peace of mind."

Dr Paul Dale, SEPA's Radioactive Substances specialist said: “There seems to be an absence of records of where material was deposited and where it has been placed.  We need to look at that, and we need to look at the assessments that have been done by the MoD and evaluate whether they are appropriate and whether anything further is needed.”

Fred Dawson, a former head of policy for radiation protection at the MoD, said it was vital that accurate records were kept of land which may be contaminated to allow future users to ensure radioactive material is not disturbed.

He added: "As long as radium remains buried, it's of no great concern.  The problem is if it's disturbed.  For instance if you're redeveloping a site, and lots of airfields have been redeveloped, you're then putting in foundations.

“It's then that you're bringing this material to the surface and into contact with people.  That's really what happened at Dalgety Bay."

Radioactive contamination was first discovered at Dalgety Bay in 1990.  So far, over 2500 separate radioactive hotspots have been uncovered.  The health risks posed by the radioactive particles from decommissioned WW2 aircraft were known to the government at the time they were dumped, but were kept secret from the public.

In 2009, the MoD's own scientists refused to analyse particles from the Dalgety Bay site because of the risk that it could give them cancer.  Former Labour PM Gordon Brown, who is the local MP for the area, was subsequently heavily criticised for his inaction after the Ministry initially refused to accept responsibility for the contamination.

In addition to RAF Kinloss and Dalgety Bay, dangerous levels of radioactive contamination have also been found at RAF Machrihanish, Royal Marine Condor near Arbroath, Almondbank near Perth and Stirling Forthside.  Only the last of these appears to have so far been cleared of radioactive particles.

Three other MoD sites may also to be contaminated, but SEPA has declined to name those sites until they have had a chance to more fully investigate the dangers posed there, to avoid unnecessarily alarming nearby residents.

The revelation that radioactive contamination was present at RAF Kinloss was originally reported by Newsnet Scotland in December 2011.  The report followed a Freedom of Information request made after UK Defence spokesman Andrew Robathan failed to disclose locations where radium had been buried.

In other reports it also emerged that the MoD had tried to sell off untreated contaminated land at Machrihanish.  The MoD had offered the land to the Scottish Government, who refused to buy it.

The MoD agreed eventually to sell the site for £1, under a community buy out, to the Machrihanish Airbase Community Company (MACC), who were planning to raise funds in order to clean up the land.


# cardrossian 2012-05-19 06:37
While ingestion of radioactive particles would obviously create a health hazard, is it such a big deal otherwise? I am not being flippant, but merely pointing out that the air crews were subject to the radiation from these instruments in close proximity for hours at a time, and many of the older generation wore luminous wristwatches all the time, yet I don't remember there ever being any health scares.
There are of course reports of the workers who made the dials suffering from cancers, but as I understand it that was more to do with their methods of application (licking paint brushes etc) rather than proximity.
# J Wil 2012-05-19 08:04
If this material is being dug up, isn't there a danger from dust being created which can be breathed in by anyone around and could be carried far and wide? Isn't that a more hazardous situation than what you have suggested?

Also, if there is no hazard then the MOD would be saying that loud and clear and would not be so secretive.
# Azg 2012-05-19 08:17
But there were health scares, actually. As a wean, I was dead pleased to have my wee bedside lamp with clever luminous switch, but you don't get those any more. I wonder why.

Likewise dead proud of my first watch (present for learning to tell the time) with nifty luminous bits. Don't see those much either these days.

Cardrossian, I see your point here - sort of we're not dead yet so don't worry. BUT, if I did want a whole damn collection of luminous watches and "Trimphones", that would be my choice, not forced upon me not only unwillingly but unknowingly.

But here there is no choice, and no data with which to make choices, despite the needed data being in the hands of an arm of government, that sort of public service thing that we all pay for with taxes and is meant to work for our benefit(haha, sound of hollow laughter).

The issue here is that the responsible body, in this case the M.o.D., has failed and seems to plan to continue to fail, to act in any responsible way whatsoever.

It seems not to feel responsible for any nastiness it leaves behind, and fails even to provide information.

This sort of thing, as in the article,for example:

"As long as radium remains buried, it's of no great concern. The problem is if it's disturbed. For instance if you're redeveloping a site, and lots of airfields have been redeveloped, you're then putting in foundations.

“It's then that you're bringing this material to the surface and into contact with people. That's really what happened at Dalgety Bay."

So, I think not good, not good at all and needs a very serious investigation as to why it is so remiss in its duties.
# Holebender 2012-05-19 12:08
As others have said, the airmen were shielded by the instrument cases (just about anything will effectively shield you from alpha and beta particles - a sheet of paper will stop alpha particles, and the glass in front of the dials would have stopped the beta particles) and had much more immediate hazards (e.g. bullets) to worry about.

On the other hand, stuff which has been broken and buried and subsequently dug up is an other matter entirely. It will be possible to come into direct contact with this material, it will get into the atmosphere as dust, it may well be ingested. And all without any of us being told it's even there.
# UpSpake 2012-05-19 06:48
So with Dalgetty Bay and Kinloss we have a further 5 sites possibly contaminated ?.
How many in England ?.
# Robabody 2012-05-19 08:30
Another possible comes to mind Upspake, in the shape of Wig Bay near Stranraer. They broke up a load of Sunderland flying boats there in the forties and fifties.
# snowthistle 2012-05-19 16:28
There was certainly some dumped at Chatham in Kent, not sure of others
# Early Ball 2012-05-19 07:37
Not to forget Gruinard Island home of the biological warfare experiments. Still quarantined seventy years later. Anywhere else?

OT Newsweek Scotland mentioned the "arc of recovery" today. Suspect a bit late to call off the demo!
# MAcandroid 2012-05-19 07:52
Not to take away from the fact that it was used in the first place to test Anthrax but it was decontaminated - how well though if it was done by the MoD
# xyz 2012-05-19 08:30
hah! .. one rarely viewed program that is not anti-Scottish does not make the BBC any less of a poisonous anti-Scottish Westminster propaganda machine.
# Holebender 2012-05-19 12:10
Is it rarely viewed because it's on the radio?
# xyz 2012-05-19 16:39
:) exactly .. but viewed, heard or seen, it hisnae been .... not by many. Unlike the foul machinations splashed all over the most watched BBC TV news etc.
# From The Suburbs 2012-05-19 07:38
O/T Worth listening to this morning's Newsweek Scotland on BBC Iplayer on how Arc of Prosperity countries still doing better than UK (around 10 mins in)
# Massacre1965 2012-05-19 08:22
Newsweek Scotland was an excellent programme this morning - the programme's contents gave a mature, unbiased approach to its topics. Listeners would have been reassured that Independence was not the bogey man.
# hiorta 2012-05-19 08:14
Was any of this dangerous muck ever dumped at sea?
# Azg 2012-05-19 08:22
How would we know? And how to know where, when and how much?
# J Wil 2012-05-19 09:45
There was a map of Scotland produced not so long ago showing the coastal areas that are contaminated by radiation, much of it carried up from Sellafield it seems.

The significant feature of the map was that there was very little coastline, if any, which did not have some contamination.

In last week's, 'Brian's Big Debate', someone on the panel defended keeping the nuclear subs at Faslane and Coulport by saying it would not matter where they are in Britain, Scotland would still be vulnerable to an attack. Perhaps the lady thought it was better to be fried quickly than to have a slow lingering death. Perhaps she did not realise that a nuclear incident could be confined to the environs of the bases.

BTW it seems to be a fashion for presenters to read what their interviewees say before they have completed ther sentence, so that viewers who may not be so well informed are deprived of the information. Brian does it and Andrew Neil does it. Are they just trying to impress us with their knowledge?

Also, Brian twitters on right through his programme, breaking up each thread of debate, which is most annoying.
# DonaldMhor 2012-05-19 08:43
Quoting hiorta:
Was any of this dangerous muck ever dumped at sea?

Munitions were routinely dumped in the Clyde approaches. Beaufort's Dyke is a deep trench to the west of the Mull of Galloway running to the North of the Isle of Man, it is full of munitions, and God knows what else. I would not trust one word that is uttered by UK minsters and the MOD on this. It is a wonder that any thing can live in the waters of the Clyde after the way they have been abused. Very few beaches on the Clyde coast meet acceptable standards.
# Robabody 2012-05-19 08:35
Well Beaufort’s Dyke was used to dump all sorts of nasty munitions in the 1940's and 50's. Raf Wig bay was nearby as was RAF West Freugh. And Luce bay was used for years as a weapons testing ground, so it'll have it share of undesirable material scattered in it
# Juteman 2012-05-19 08:51
And of course Cape Wrath (about as far away from London as you can get) is still used as a live fire area. Half the world bombards the area by ship and plane.
I wonder how much depleted uranium is lying about the area?
# Caadfael 2012-05-19 09:03
There is also "the bomb dump" area immediately east of the Isle of May.
We recovered 2 items in trawl nets to the south of the May, what looked like the bomb-aimers window from a Canberra bomber, and later a live Hedgehog anti-submarine mortar round, some 2 ft in diameter as I recall .. blown up by RN Bomb Disposal
Heaven knows what else lies there!
# Saporian 2012-05-19 09:25
O/T Alex Salmond on his way to the USA
# Dundonian West 2012-05-19 11:12
AS.California visit.
Speaking at the Commonwealth Club of California.

"The leading national forum open to all for the impartial discussion of public issues important to the membership, community and nation."

Thanks to Saporian for the info.
I have a couple of YouTube 'Friends' in San Francisco,and will pass this on and perhaps persuade them to join the Commonwealth Club,and go along on the night!
# Keep UTG 2012-05-19 09:52
"The Ministry of Defence has so far made no comment concerning the contaminated land outside the base, stating only that "RAF Kinloss is considered suitable for its current use".

Which,i thought,was closure!
# xyz 2012-05-19 09:59
No, not closure, they're turning over to the army ... The famous 39 Battalion of Tory voters. ..
# Caadfael 2012-05-20 07:54
A small point of order XYZ, there are many Scots in the "tech arms" of the army, particularly the REs, Reme (and Sigs)and AFC.
I'm sure many of them would welcome a Scottish posting.
Tories? Ah hae ma doots!
# RTP 2012-05-19 10:04
They say that loads of ammunition and other things were dumped in the Cromarty Firth some of which was seen when upgrading pipes from the distillery's in the area.
# UpSpake 2012-05-19 11:44
When, as a country you are held is low esteem you are an easy place to dump surplus munitions and all sorts of other detritous.
Such is the mentality of the MOD re-inforced by an establishment which is for England one and all.
Scots are cannon fodder and expendible in the long standing eyes of the military so it is a simple and logical extension of thinking to see our waters and our lands as at the disposal of England.
Independence won't allow for a clean slate but at least there will be no more such treatment of us and our lands.
# Dundonian West 2012-05-19 12:21
May I add that the British/Scottish(same thing) Labour Party has been complicit,as part of the British Establishment,i n using Scotland to maintain,"We're all in this together" mentality?
Shame on them.
They want one thing----Patronage and Power at Westminster.
The enlisted or not,man and woman in the street come well down their list of priorities.
Red Tory/Blue Tory.
The charade continues.
# bagonails 2012-05-19 11:49
Dont mention the Holy Loch !!!!!!!!!!!
# border reiver 2012-05-19 12:09
Basicaly, radiation has been strictly regulated for many years, however since the Introduction of the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1992 (20 years ago) the MOD have a duty of care and should have carried out a suitable & sufficient risk assessment of all aspects of its undertakings and where a risk assement identifies any unacceptable risks, take adequate measures to control them, the imoprtant part when dealing with contamination such as radiation would include removing/reducing the risk, monitoring, and passing information to anyone who may be affected, including contractors, sub contractors the public etc. Radiation as we well know has the potential to cause very serious adverse health effects and as such it should have been given a very high priority on all its sites.

It seems obvious that they have known about the problem and as such should be complying with all the relevant Regulations, Acts and Guidance Notes etc. The MOD are no different from any other business and as such they may be liable to procecution as breaches of Health & Safety Regulations are a criminal offence
# Holebender 2012-05-19 12:47
I thought the MoD had crown immunity and wasn't covered by the normal elf and safety malarky?
# josepy wallace 2012-06-04 05:15
So is what 300 hundred years gets us for being in the union, ilegal wars, poverty, debt, unemployment, etc.... could go for ever I guess my point is 300 long enough, to long for many, the union has had enough time to make this whole country a better place and quite frankly the union has quandered it with greed lies, wars etc.... like when my marriage was finished I called it a day and moved on, thats what we in Scotland should do get Independance and move on

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