An oil rig was evacuated on Wednesday after a ship, the Parida, carrying radioactive material caught fire and began drifting in the Moray Firth. Around 50 people from the Beatrice oil platform were evacuated as a precaution.
It was later confirmed that the waste was from Dounreay, in Caithness, and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has said that the Parida was carrying two containers each holding three 500 litre containers of ‘intermediate level’ waste.
Caithness, Sutherland and Ross MSP Rob Gibson has called for answers after the ship’s radioactive material sparked the evacuation of the oil platform.
The SNP MSP said:
“This incident underlines the risks associated with transporting radioactive material by sea and raises a series of questions about how this sequence of events occurred.
“Why was the vessel and its dangerous cargo allowed to set sail during hazardous sea conditions and what caused the fire to break out? I will be seeking answers in Parliament on these key questions.
“I know that the Scottish Government is closely monitoring this incident to ensure that there has not been any environmental impact from this incident.
“Although this incident thankfully did not develop into something more serious, the evacuation of the Beatrice oil platform underlines the risks associated with transporting radioactive material by sea.
“We need to learn lessons from last night’s events and ensure that the waste from Dounreay is handled in the safest possible way.”
Scotland’s Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead contacted Baroness Verma, who has responsibility for the UK nuclear regulatory body, to discuss whether it was wise for a vessel carrying such material to set sail in a ‘weather window’ when the weather condition led to the ship drifting and made the rescue effort more difficult than it would have been in better weather.
In addition to asking Westminster to investigate the incident and explore what lessons can be learned from its outcome, Mr Lochhead also suggested to Baroness Verma that the Scottish Government should have the powers to enable us to regulate the transportation of nuclear waste on Scottish land and sea.
Mr Lochhead said:
“The Parida is now anchored about one mile from the Cromarty Firth, and the appropriate UK regulators will decide when it is safe for the vessel and its cargo to move. However, given the circumstances of this incident I will be seeking assurance from the UK Government that a suitable towing vessel will be in the vicinity of the vessel as it makes its way out of Scottish waters.
“I will also be asking the UK Government for an investigation to be carried out to examine what caused this incident, and why we have a situation that vessels that are carrying nuclear waste in our waters are waiting for weather windows at this time of year, especially given the impact that the weather could have on any rescue operation.
“We have to ensure that we are taking absolutely every single precaution that comes with the transportation of nuclear waste. In this case, risk to the public and environment has been avoided, which is very reassuring to hear and I would like to extend my gratitude to everyone who was involved in the rescue operation last night and in the early hours of this morning.
“Presently, the Scottish Government does not have control over the transportation of radioactive waste or what happens with ships in incidents like this that occur in Scottish waters – all we can currently do is monitor the situation. I will be raising this issue with Baroness Verma to ask expressly that the relevant powers are devolved to the Scottish Parliament.”
The Scottish Government, along with the Maritime & Coastguard Authority (MCA) and Police Scotland are continuing to monitor the situation.
Pictured is Scotland’s Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead MSP