Rig evacuated in nuclear scare

Incident being classed as “serious”. 

Oil rig evacuated after ship carrying radioactive waste drifts

An oil platform has been evacuated after a ship carrying radioactive material caught fire and began drifting in the Moray Firth.

The Parida was transporting a cargo of concreted radioactive waste when a fire broke out in one of its two funnels.

The blaze has been extinguished, but 52 workers were taken from the Beatrice platform by helicopter as a precaution.

Aberdeen coastguard said the ship was under tow and was heading to the Cromarty Firth to secure anchor.

The 15 crew members of the Parida, who were unharmed during the incident, will decide later whether to attempt to restart the engine.

Ministers said the Scottish government was “closely monitoring” the incident.

Dounreay Site Restoration Limited has confirmed the waste was from Dounreay, an experimental nuclear power plant near Thurso which is being decommissioned.

The material, which was sent to Dounreay from Belgium for reprocessing in the 1990s, was being shipped back to Belgium.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) said the Parida was carrying two containers called flasks each holding three 500-litre drums of intermediate level waste.

The NDA said the ship and its cargo had been categorised at the lowest level of safety concern.

It described Tuesday night’s event as a “marine incident and not a nuclear incident”.

The coastguard were alerted at about 20:00 on Tuesday as the Danish registered Parida was taking a cargo of radioactive concrete from Scrabster to Antwerp in Belgium.

The platform staff were flown to RAF Lossiemouth shortly before midnight. Parida was about seven miles from the Moray Firth platform at the time.

A Shetland Coastguard spokesman said: “The Parida is now under tow by the vessel Pacific Champion.

“The coastguard emergency towing vessel from Orkney was tasked to go and prevent the Parida from drifting but before the coastguard vessel arrived on scene the owners agreed a commercial tow with Pacific Champion.”

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said the Scottish government was “closely monitoring” the incident.

He said: “Most people, like me, may not be comfortable with the idea of a vessel carrying nuclear waste waiting for a weather window to sail through our waters.

“While these vessels are built to cope with extreme weather, if they break down they drift and that is a fact we have to think about here.

“It is a serious incident and I think we need to review how we regulate the transportation of nuclear waste in our waters. That is the responsibility of the Office of Nuclear Regulation and I will be speaking to UK ministers about it.”

Source: bbc.co.uk

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