Three steps may be all it takes to alter our perception of place
A fairly idyllic view taken last weekend from the Fife Coastal Path at Dalgety Bay. An expansive sky animated by great dollops of scudding cloud, mirrored in the calm, glassy sea. Inchcolm Island lies straight ahead and over to the right, the contours of Edinburgh and Arthur’s Seat ink the horizon.
Waders and gulls amble and preen on the bay foreshore with divers, ducks and the occasional seal bobbing in the deeper water.
take three steps back
You find out that you are actually standing on radioactive contaminated land.
The contamination is believed to originate from the residue of radium coated instrument panels that were used in military aircraft. Between 1946 and 1959, over 800 planes were incinerated and the ash was land-filled in the area.
Radioactive material was first detected on a part of the foreshore in 1990 and, since then, more than 1000 radioactive items have been removed.
It has taken twenty-three years for the MoD to be ‘officially’ named as polluter of the site by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). However, the MoD continue to prevaricate in actually admitting responsibility and most importantly undertaking remediation options. This week, the can has been kicked forward, once again, until September when another ‘discussion’ between SEPA and the MoD will take place.
There is a possibility that SEPA will be required to formally designate the beach at Dalgety Bay as a radiation-contaminated area. If this happens, it will be the first such designated site in the UK.
“It would be extraordinary that in a Britain that has nuclear storage sites, nuclear processing sites, nuclear weapons and nuclear waste, the beautiful beach at Dalgety Bay would stand out as the first and only radiation-contaminated site in the country.”
(Gordon Brown, MP, Hansard, 9th July 2013)
The layered traces of human activity embedded in the land takes on another dimension when the presence of absence can be measured in half-lives.
Now playing: Sun Ra – Nuclear War.
4 replies on “Three steps …”
Thanks for the post. Yes perception mediated through knowledge. Many years ago, with the tide out further, I would mud lark very close to where the warning sign shows in your picture. Despite all the subsequent concerns about radioactivity, I still smile at the thought of my mud covered hands holding up the rotten remains of gas mask and the discovery of a completely intact clay pipe from deep within the mud.
Thanks Gavin. Good story. Unless they erect physical barriers to prevent access, nothing will stop kids doing what they’ve always done on beaches.
The sins of the fathers…..
For many years, since a trip to Cape Wrath to discover that the navy were at that time directly shelling the tall cliffs of Clo Mor for target practice, I have ceased to be surprised by the stupidity and disdain with which our military treat the land.
There is a delightful irony here in the proximity of the cold war bunker near Anstruther, as a reminder of the nuclear paranoia which governed our lives in the 60s and 70s, whilst the MoD were willfully dumping radioactive debris on a public beach.
Thanks, once again, for opening our eyes to the strange histories of place
Thanks Ian. There are also seven ‘retired’ nuclear submarines presently lurking in Rosyth Dockyard only a few miles away. As far as I know, the MoD heads still unclear as to how they will extract and dispose of the nuclear reactors.