Fragments of nuclear fuel, which continue to turn up on beaches near the former experimental reactor, prompted SEPA to commission an enquiry into their effects on human health in 1998.More: Risk of Dounreay particles 'low' [March 14th, 2006 on BBC web]
Particles found at the site so far are "relatively low in activity." Visible skin burns could only occur if a person encountered a particle of higher activity, according to the Health Protection Agency (HPA), which carried out the research. It estimated the chances of that happening at one in 80 million.
But the report also warned of particles with a higher radioactivity being brought onto the beach from the seabed. Such particles have not been detected since monitoring began in 1999, however, the researchers said.
The HPA looked more closely at vulnerable groups, such as people walking dogs or digging for bait on the affected beaches, and the time they spent there. It considered the possibility of people accidentally swallowing or inhaling the particles, or sand from the beach being used for children's sandpits.
"Dounreay nuclear debris could kill," [BBC, 1999]
"Decommissioning Caithness Dounreay" [Power-Technology.com]
"The threats at Dounreay," [N-Base]
(Image CC from Wikimedia Commons)