Richard Lochhead

Moray SNP News



Nuclear waste being carried to the United States by air via RAF Lossiemouth is causing significant concern for local SNP MP Angus Robertson.

The issue was flagged up by constituents in Lossiemouth, who saw recent media coverage of the issue.  Nuclear waste flights using C17 Globemaster aircraft head to the United States from Wick airport near Dounreay.

Work had been done to strengthen the runway to accommodate the large aircraft required but it seems that the upgrade of the runway failed to take account of the takeoff distance required for a C17 aircraft loaded with nuclear waste and the 90 tonnes of fuel for a transatlantic flight. The runway now requires to be extended by an additional 1,700 feet.

In the meantime the aircraft are loaded with less fuel enabling them to fly to Lossiemouth for a bigger fuel load where they can use the much longer 9,000 foot runway.

The local MP has written to the UK Government demanding clarity on the situation and an explanation of how the runway issues at Wick have come about.

The SNP’s Mr Robertson said:

“I am very concerned about this issue. We are talking about weapons grade nuclear material being transported. Clearly with the decommissioning of Dounreay some waste has to be transported but the risk to the public must be minimised at all times.

“Having additional landings and takeoffs of aircraft with nuclear waste next to populated areas adds extra risk to the transportation of this waste and it seems that this additional risk could have been avoided if a runway extension at Wick had been carried out at the same time as the strengthening work.

“Instead there is added complexity with the extra landing and takeoff required at Lossiemouth.

“Local people have rightly expressed serious concern about this activity and the UK Government needs to provide answers on how this situation has arisen and what plans they have in place for the future to prevent unnecessary aircraft movements with nuclear waste.”

The text of the letter to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy is as follows:


The Rt Hon Greg Clark MP
Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy
1 Victoria Street

Dear Secretary of State

I have recently been contacted by concerned residents of Lossiemouth in my Moray Constituency following a recent news story that appeared in the Sunday Post. The story can be found here: https://www.sundaypost.com/news/risky-scots-airport-short-giant-waste-transport-planes-despite-8-million-upgrade/

As you will see the story sets out issues surrounding air transport of nuclear waste from Wick Airport to the United States using C17 Globemaster aircraft.

In particular I would like clarification of the process that has been followed to prepare Wick Airport for the handling of these aircraft. The news article states that runway strengthening has taken place but no extension made to the runway resulting in the aircraft taking on a light fuel load to fly to RAF Lossiemouth in my constituency where they can refuel for transatlantic flight - the reason being that RAF Lossiemouth has a much longer runway.

Why was an extension at Wick Airport not built at the same time as the runway strengthening work to avoid this situation? What is the risk assessment for the doubling of takeoffs and landings of the aircraft carrying the nuclear waste? What contingency plans are in place should any incident occur?

My understanding is that the waste in question is military grade nuclear material and there is legitimate concern for the thousands of people who live close to RAF Lossiemouth, indeed there are well in excess of 30,000 people living within 10 miles of the base.

The Government needs to explain what is happening with this waste and I would appreciate an early response on this important issue for Lossiemouth and Moray residents.

Yours sincerely

Angus Robertson MP