NUCLEAR bosses are under fire for the “ludicrous” decision to spend £1m repainting the Dounreay “golf ball” – even though it is to be demolished.
Managers at the site say the huge dome is due a paintjob and warn it is certain to become a rusting eyesore if the work is not carried out.
Dounreay is being completely dismantled in a process that will cost £2.6bn and take 300 years. Potentially deadly radioactive particles continue to be discovered at a nearby beach.
The steel golf ball was constructed around one of the nuclear reactors in the 1950s to protect the area from a leak of radiation.
Dismantling the nuclear reactor inside will take another 20 years and the golf ball has to stay in place around it as a safety measure.
The Caithness coast is lashed by storms and the golf ball has to be repainted every decade to stop corrosion.
Dounreay Site Restoration Limited, the company carrying out the work, admitted they are planning to paint the golf ball for cosmetic reasons.
A spokesman confirmed that the decommissioning programme included £500,000 – spread over two years – for maintenance on the structure.
Painting the structure again in 10 years’ time will take the bill to at least £1m.
He said: “It is mostly an aesthetic thing because it will begin to rust – no question about that.”
The spokesman said they were looking at ways to trim costs and experts were examining whether the painting could be axed.
He said the experts would want to know if the resulting corrosion would have any effect over 20 years.
When Highlands MSP Dave Stewart heard about the painting plan he contacted managers at Dounreay to urge them to reconsider.
He said: “This looks like a ludicrous waste of public funds.”
But Green MPS Patrick Harvie backed the move. He said: “If the paint job is going to maintain the integrity of the building and in turn keep the place safe then I can’t make a complaint about it.”
Clean-up workers recently found the most deadly radioactive particle in 26 years of monitoring at the site.
The particle, found on Sandside beach, was measured to be 100 times more radioactive than the safety limit.
In all, 429 radioactive fragments were recovered from the seabed between August and October this year, 81 of which were described as “significant”.