Australian news, and some related international items

Dangers of transporting radioactive trash from runways not fit for purpose

Airplane dangerantnuke-relevantCalls to ban ‘unsafe’ nuclear flights from Highland airport   Sunday Herald, Rob Edwards, 18 Dec 16 FLIGHTS loaded with weapons-grade uranium that are being launched from a Highland airport are in dangerous breach of runway safety limits, according to documents released under Freedom of Information (FoI) law.

The revelations have led to angry accusations from politicians and environmental groups that a “horrific gamble” is being taken on these flights and calls for the nuclear transports to be banned immediately.

Bombs-grade uranium from Dounreay nuclear plant in Caithness is being flown from Wick John O’Groats Airport to America aboard 130-tonne C-17 US Air Force planes, which according to the documents, are too heavy for most of the runway.

The company that runs the airport denies these accusations and says the runway complies with current industry standards.

A deal to fly 700 kilograms of highly-enriched uranium waste from Dounreay to the US was announced by former UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, at a nuclear security summit in Washington DC in March. The first flight took place from Wick airport under armed guard on September 17 – and more are expected next year.

There were earlier reports that Wick’s runway was too short for C-17 aircraft and that the airport’s rescue and firefighting capability was inadequate. The flight from the US in September landed at RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, which experts say could have been to minimise the weight of fuel it was carrying for its short hop to and from Wick.

Now detailed technical reports obtained by the Sunday Herald disclose that the runway may not be strong enough to withstand the flights. Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) had commissioned the US engineering firm AECOM to examine the structural suitability of Wick’s runway for C-17s, and it produced a 46-page report in October 2015.

Under safety standards used by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the report found that most of the runway was deficient. “The movements of the C-17 will not meet the necessary criteria for normal overloading operations as stated in the guidance and thus should only be allowed in emergency situations,” it said……….

John Finnie MSP, transport spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, called for the flights to be suspended pending a safety review. “The public will rightly be alarmed by this disclosure,” he said.

“It clearly suggests that no legitimate risk assessment has been undertaken and a lower standard is being applied simply because of what the cargo is. I intend raising this matter in the Scottish Parliament.”

Friends of the Earth Scotland described the released documents as damning. “It is almost beyond belief that these flights are using a runway that is not fit for purpose,” said the environmental group’s director, Dr Richard Dixon.

“Gambling against the horrific consequences of one of these flights crashing is bad enough but vastly increasing the risk of a crash by using an unsuitable airport is almost too stupid to believe. Whoever thought this was an acceptable plan should lose their job and these flights should be banned immediately.”

Tor Justad, chairperson of the campaign group Highlands Against Nuclear Transport, demanded an “absolute assurance” that the C-17 aircraft would not damage the runway or suffer an accident. “Safety standards are being compromised to allow the uranium flights to go ahead,” he said…………..

December 19, 2016 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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