Controversial top secret flights carrying Dounreay’s deadly nuclear waste from Scotland to the USA resumed at the weekend.
A US Air Force C-17 Globemaster touched down at Wick airport at 11:51am on Saturday to receive a load of highly enriched uranium, one of the products used in the construction of nuclear bombs.
Roads around Wick airport were closed prior to the convoy arriving at 12:36pm, heavily guarded by armed officers from Police Scotland and from the Civil Nuclear Constabulary on its 31 mile journey from Dounreay.
The waste deal was trumpeted by former Prime Minister David Cameron and President Barack Obama arranging for highly enriched uranium to be flown from Wick to the US in return for “medical grade” uranium to make radioisotopes for detecting cancer.
The deal led to howls of protest from MPs, MSPS and Friends of the Earth.
The outrage was stoked when it was revealed that the runway at Wick airport was too short for the giant Globemaster to take off with its fuel tanks full.
Aircrafts are being forced to reroute to RAF Lossiemouth to top up with fuel before flying on to the US.
Highlands and Islands MSP John Finnie said: “Transporting nuclear waste is a risky business. By using two airports you are doubling the take-offs and landing in this country, which doubles the risk. It is disturbing to discover we are now using an extra airbase in heavily populated areas for a stop-off to transport nuclear waste”.
One local businessman said: “I could hardly believe it when I heard that it had to go to Lossie to top up. Informed sources up here have been told that the flights would be direct to the States. That must have been before they found out the runway here was too short.”
The current flight is the first of 2018. Already there have been four US Air Force flights carrying highly enriched uranium bound for South Carolina, however, authorities have refused to confirm that these flights have ever taken place.
A further six or seven flights are expected to follow between now and September next year.
A spokesman for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority said: “Our priority is to comply with the regulations governing the safety and security of nuclear material. Compliance with the regulations includes protecting information about the routes, times, dates and location.”
The Globemaster left Wick Airport at 3.46pm on Saturday afternoon on its way to the US via RAF Lossiemouth in Moray.
Wick John O’Groats airport is closed to civilian aircraft on Saturdays.