NUCLEAR waste will be flown from a Scottish airport to the United States under plans to carry out further decommissioning work at Dounreay.

Friends of the Earth Scotland has condemned the move to transport highly enriched uranium from the nuclear plant in Caithness to America, claiming it raises serious safety issues.

An £18 million upgrade of Wick John O’Groats Airport was recently carried out to make it suitable for larger planes.

Now there are fears the nuclear flights could begin at any time after Highland Council published a road closure order that clears the way for minor routes around the airport to be closed over the next 18 months.

Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “Nuclear waste should be dealt with as close to where it is produced as possible, rather than risking transporting it between continents.

“There is no truly safe way to move this nuclear waste from A to B. Flying it to the US is simply dumping the problem in someone else’s backyard.

“We see again the enormous problems that inevitably come with the nuclear industry, just as sure as night follows day, from the waste it creates to its indefinite storage and risky transportation.”

Former prime minister David Cameron confirmed earlier this year, after talks with President Barack Obama, it was the UK’s intention to transport uranium from Dounreay to South Carolina.

It will be swapped for other forms of uranium to be shipped to Europe which, it is believed, will be used in producing medical isotopes.

Dr Dixon added: “This waste will remain dangerous for a thousand generations, no matter where it ends up from this dodgy deal between the UK and US.”

A spokeswoman at Dounreay said she could neither confirm nor deny nuclear waste from the redundant power station would be flown from Wick.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has also remained silent on the issue.

However, the closure order published by council chiefs means minor roads around the airport can be shut for up to five hours at a time.

Dr Dixon said: “This plan will be a big inconvenience and upset to the local community as the nuclear industry continues to struggle to clean up its toxic mess.

“While it is only sensible that roads are closed to the public while this material is moved, the open-ended nature of the potential disruption demonstrates a worrying uncertainty around these activities.

“Local people will be rightly alarmed at the possibility of nuclear waste being moved down their minor roads at some stage and should be kept fully informed of plans.”

Paul Monaghan, MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, has described the deal to transport nuclear waste to the US as “morally reprehensible”.

Highlands and Islands MSP John Finnie has also expressed concerns about the transport plans.

He said: “Many will be astonished it is considered appropriate to move, let alone fly, this waste material from Dounreay.

“The local disruption is nothing compared to the risks any transit poses.

“This waste should be retained at Dounreay.”

Police Scotland has confirmed it is “assisting a partner agency with an operation to facilitate abnormal road movements”.

A spokeswoman said: “A temporary traffic restriction has been requested as a contingency.

“Should the road be closed for any time, officers will be there to facilitate emergency and local access, ensuring no-one is put at any risk.

“For security reasons, no further details can be provided.”

The 140-acre Dounreay site opened in 1955 but manufactured its last batch of nuclear fuel more than a decade ago.

An original date of 2038 was set for the completion of decommissioning but this was later brought forward to 2025.