THE UK Government is to investigate concerns that plans are being drawn up to transport dangerous nuclear material, so-called “exotic fuel”, on public roads in Scotland for possible shipment to the US.

The issue was raised during Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons by Angus Robertson, the SNP leader at Westminster, who told MPs: “There are growing reports in the north of Scotland about plans to transport dangerous nuclear material, including potentially nuclear weapons grade uranium, from the Dounreay nuclear facility on public roads to Wick airport. It's believed that it will then be flown to the United States.”

Mr Robertson asked George Osborne - who was standing in at the dispatch box for David Cameron because the PM was in Romania as part of his EU reform mission - what the nuclear material would be used for.

“Have any of his colleagues or himself spoken with a single minister in the Scottish Government about this?" added the party leader.

The Chancellor explained that the transportation of nuclear materials had happened across the UK over many decades and that there were established procedures for doing so.

He told Mr Robertson: "The Royal Marines and the police service in Scotland provide the security as they do that. If he has specific concerns he wants to raise about the plans for the transportation, he can raise them with us, but as I say, the arrangements are in place to make sure we protect the public."

Later, Mr Osborne’s spokesman was asked if the UK Government would examine Mr Robertson’s concern. He replied: “I’m sure we will look at it.”

No 10 also stressed that there were “clear rules and regulations” about the transportation of nuclear material across the country.

Asked about the possibility of moving such material to America, a spokesman added: “Again, any transportation of nuclear materials will be done within the framework of the rules set out and those are designed to ensure the highest levels of safety.”

Reports have suggested that the first consignment of plutonium nuclear material has already been transported from the Prototype Fast Reactor at Dounreay more than 400 miles to the Sellafield reprocessing plant in flood-affected Cumbria.

Dounreay has, for “security reasons”, declined to say how the fuel was transported to Sellafield but last year it carried out trials by sea, road and rail.

In June, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority said the transfer of 11 tonnes of nuclear material from the Caithness site to the reprocessing plant in Cumbria had been completed following its closure in 1977. The material, a legacy of Dounreay’s fast reactor programme, consisted of rods of natural uranium that had been irradiated to breed new plutonium fuel for power stations.

A further 33 tonnes of so-called “breeder” material remains inside the Dounreay Fast Reactor and is also scheduled to be transported to Sellafield. The Caithness site is being decommissioned and is due for closure in 2030.

Following PMQs, Mr Robertson said he had written to the Prime Minister seeking clarity over the reports about potentially weapons grade uranium being transported along Scotland’s roads.

“Did the UK Government inform Scottish Government ministers?” asked the Moray MP.

“The public has a right to expect the highest safety standards and full co-ordination and co-operation between responsible public agencies,” he added.

His SNP colleague Paul Monaghan, who represents Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, which includes Wick Airport, said the reports were “deeply concerning” and claimed there seemed to be a “lack of openness and transparency” by the UK Government and the Department for the Environment.

“I am in regular contact with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and the Ministry of Defence in respect of both Dounreay and HMS Vulcan. However, I was unaware, along with my constituents, of plans to transport so-called “exotic fuel”, which includes plutonium and uranium, across the constituency using roads, rail, sea and air.