DOUNREAY personnel will be banned from this morning from going on to Sandside Beach and searching for radioactive particles because its owner believes they are failing to detect 99% of them.
For months a debate has raged in the local press and radio between the UK Atomic Energy Authority and Geoffrey Minter, owner of the 40,000-acre Sandside Estate a couple of miles to the west of Dounreay.
The UKAEA insists that its approach to monitoring is effective, meets the requirements of its regulatory bodies, and that spending more public money would not be justified, given the level of risk.
Mr Minter, however, has hired his own independent expert, Dr Philip Day, an environmental chemist from Manchester University who believes Dounreay's approach may be capable of locating only 1% of the particles.
UKAEA has even gone to the lengths of offering to buy Sandside Beach from Mr Minter, but he says he does not want to sell.
He says: "It is a bit like having a vintage motor car which is your pride and joy and somebody keeps bashing into it and when you complain, they say OK we will buy it. It is not the point.
"There is a huge conflict of interest here. There is a polluter, the UKAEA. There is a monitor, the UKAEA. There is a regulator who sets the monitoring programme, the UKAEA.
"The whole thing is like getting a burglar in charge of a neighbourhood watch scheme."
But the UKAEA has defended its approach. A spokesman said: "The monitoring we do complies with the requirements of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency."