PLUTONIUM POLLUTION

THE LEGACY OF THE NUCLEAR AGE

Blewbury Environmental Research Group
Wendy MacLeod-Gilford & Mick Gilford, MA(Cantab), MSc, DIC

E-mail: berg@gn.apc.org


1 For the past 53 years the World has been subjected to a number of man-made transuranics which have been distributed through-out the World via atmospheric nuclear weapons testing: (the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) estimate that 10 tonnes of Plutonium has been released between 1945 and 1976. The fallout was higher in the Northern than Southern Hemisphere with the highest peak in fallout occurring in 1963). UNSCEAR (1977) estimated a total cumulative world-wide deposition of 238Pu - 890 TBq half life 87.7 years, 239Pu 6.52 PBq, half life 24,100 years, 240Pu 4.35 PBq, half life 6,563 years, 241Pu* 3.6 x 105 half life 14.4 years, 241Americium 1.2 x 104 half-life 433 years.

* Decays into 241Americium.

1.1 The amount of radioactive fallout in a particular region will depend on latitude and rainfall. UNSCEAR (United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiations) estimate that approximately 12.2% of all fallout radioactivity has been deposited between latitudes 50-60 degrees (with an area of 2.56 x 1013 m2). London is at latitude 51 degrees 29’.

2 Further Plutonium contamination has been released by:-

  • accidents with nuclear weapons (Palomares, Spain 1966 and Thule, Greenland 1968); (1)
  • accidents at nuclear facilities, Three Mile Island, Sellafield, Chernobyl, Aldermaston, Russian facilities and in other countries,
  • satellite re-entry (e.g. SNAP-9), and
  • permitted radioactive discharges from nuclear establishments (in the UK main discharges come from Sellafield, Dounreay, Aldermaston, Harwell and Winfrith but civil nuclear power stations* have also produced Plutonium) to air, inland water-ways and the sea. Reprocessing and military plutonium.
  • trees, hence woodpulp, newspapers, books and magazines.(1A)

*Plutonium (kg) discharged in spent fuel during fiscal year 1986-87.(1B)

Station DoE figures (rounded to nearest 50 kg)
Bradwell 150
Berkeley 100
Hinkley Point A 350
Trawsfynydd 250
Dungeness A 200
Sizewell A 200
Oldbury 250
Wylfa 150
Hunterston 200

3 As a result of these discharges of Plutonium it has built-up in soil, mud, silt, water, plants, trees (and hence paper pulp, paper products and wood products), animals and human beings and is also in the air which we all breathe. Minute particles are constantly being blown around and resuspended. The constant ploughing of light soils in hot weather conditions causes higher levels of Plutonium dust in air. The minute particles which are discharged via stacks and ventilation systems at nuclear sites are blown long distances and are intercepted by foliage which then drops to the ground further away and causes build-up.

4 UNSCEAR, 1993 and Allard, 1984 have calculated that the amount of Plutonium from bomb fall-out has resulted in levels of contamination in soil and silt of between 0.02 and 0.7 Bq/kg in the Northern Hemisphere with a mean of 0.4 Bq/kg.

5 UKAEA, Harwell(2) carried out a Nationwide survey and found levels of Plutonium from bomb fallout of between 0.01 - 0.85 Bq/kg and levels of 1.62 Bq/kg in Scottish peat bogs. They calculated a mean of 0.4 Bq/kg in high rainfall areas and 0.2 Bq/kg in low rainfall areas.

6 Southampton University also carry out an annual monitoring programme in the South of England and find levels of between 0.03 - 0.33 Bq/kg of Plutonium remote from nuclear discharges but levels up to 7 Bq/kg near Aldermaston, up to 1.53 Bq/kg at Chilton near Harwell, and up to 6.19 Bq/kg at Goatshead Peninsular, Poole Harbour on the South Coast from Winfrith. They also find levels of Plutonium along the coasts of the Channel Islands from discharges from La Hague reprocessing plant.(3)

7 In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s Aldermaston Scientists started carrying out a monitoring programme around all nuclear sites, such as Aldermaston, Harwell, Sellafield and Capenhurst. They found levels of Plutonium up to 15 Bq/kg at Greenham Common, Newbury which is many times higher than bomb fall-out.(4) They concluded that it was caused by an accident with a USA nuclear weapon and not as a result of the discharges from Aldermaston. As a result of the release of this information in 1996 Newbury District Council commissioned Southampton University to carry out a detailed survey of the whole area from Harwell to Aldermaston.(5)

This survey found levels of plutonium up to 6.52 Bq/kg in Savernake Forest (control area); up to 2.64 Bq/kg in Berkshire villages between Harwell and Aldermaston; up to 5.54 Bq/kg around Newbury and Greenham Common; up to 4.07 Bq/kg on the former air base and up to 10.50 Bq/kg around AWE Aldermaston. There were 22 monitoring sites below 0.2 Bq/kg, 154 sites between 0.2 - 1.00 Bq/kg, 79 sites between 1 - 3.0 Bq/kg and 9 sites over 3.0 Bq/kg.

8 At the same time NRPB were asked to carry out a survey on behalf of the MOD and found levels of Plutonium up to 3.8 Bq/kg. However they "derived" earlier figures from the original 1977 UKAEA Harwell report by multiplying them roughly by 5 and came up with a bomb fall-out figure of up to 1.7 Bq/kg*. (6) Despite this they still admitted that anything over that amount came from discharges from Aldermaston. They also confirmed the original figure of 15 Bq/kg in the early Aldermaston reports at a public meeting held in Newbury. * This figure would mean that the UNSCEAR estimate of 10 tonnes of Plutonium from bomb fall-out would be out by at least a factor of 2, i.e. over 20 tonnes of Plutonium has been released by atmospheric weapons testing! This would also mean similar high levels would be found in areas remote from nuclear sites but this is not the case.

8.1 There are elevated levels of leukaemias and all cancers in all age groups in Berkshire and Oxfordshire, with 2 1/2 times the national rate of childhood deaths from leukaemia in South Oxfordshire and in West Berkshire.(7)(8) A similar study was conducted by Oxfordshire Health Authority in 1997 into incidence of childhood leukaemias in the Vale of the White Horse but did not look at South Oxfordshire.(8A) The study was carried out to prove there was no ill effects from the discharges from UKAEA Harwell and yet most of the discharges affect South Oxfordshire and West Berkshire! An independent study was also carried out and found the death rate from leukaemia in children living in South Oxfordshire was 2.45 times the national average.(8B) The Oxfordshire Health Authority refused access to cancer incidence but interestingly, the Berkshire Health Authority released the data. The Director of Oxfordshire Health Authority is Dr Peter Iredale, the ex-director of UKAEA Harwell!

9 MAFF carry out an annual monitoring programme around all nuclear sites and find levels of Plutonium up to 2000 Bq/kg in Irish Sea sediment, and 18,000 Bq/kg in river sediment (Ravenglass estuary), from Chemical reprocessing at Sellafield.

MAFF has found the following amounts of Plutonium:

Place Medium Quantity
Newbiggin mud 13,700 Bq/kg
Ehen Spit sand 3,220 Bq/kg
Ravenglass estuary grass and soil regularly flooded 106,000Bq/kg
Cemlyn Bay, North Wales mud 27.1 Bq/kg
South-east Scotland mud at Garlieston 104 Bq/kg
Carsluith mud 142 Bq/kg
Kippford Merse salt marsh 347 Bq/kg
Kippford slipway mud 144 Bq/kg
Palnackie Harbour mud 167 Bq/kg
Northern Ireland Lough Foyle 7.7 Bq/kg
Ballymacomick mud 21.4 Bq/kg
Strangford Lough mud 16.6 Bq/kg
Carlingford Lough mud 15.4 Bq/kg
Oldmill Bay mud 19.1 Bq/kg
Dounreay Oigin Geo sludge 1,090 Bq/kg
Dungeness Rye Harbour soil 4.22 Bq/kg
Heysham Half Moon Bay 188 Bq/kg
Trawsfyndd hot lagoon mud 2,115 Bq/kg
Trawsfyndd Lake top 382.61 Bq/kg (NRPB figure).(9)(10)

The NRPB GDL for Plutonium

in marine sediment in sea washed pasture
Isotope

Bq/kg

Isotope

Bq/kg

238Pu 1,000

238Pu

20,000
239Pu 90,000

239Pu

20,000
240Pu 90,000

240Pu

20,000
241Pu 90,000

241Pu

600,000
    242Pu

20,000

10 Plutonium discharged to the sea gets resuspended and blown back onto land thus causing build-up in silt and mud along the shoreline especially at the high tide line; some of this in turn gets resuspended and blown further inland. Both animals and humans will ingest these resuspended particles and some will be taken up by plants. UKAEA Harwell found Levels of Pu 238, 239+240 in suspended sediment along the Welsh coast of:-Kinmel Bay - 224.3 Bq/kg; Borth - 12.3 Bq/kg; Rhossilli Bay - 9.3 Bq/kg. Levels of Plutonium 239+240 in air at Borth 140 nBq/m3, Kinmel Bay 680 nBq/m3, Rhossilli 50 nBq/m3 this Plutonium comes from permitted discharges from Sellafield.(11) People, especially children, using these beaches and living adjacent to the coast have exposure to levels of Plutonium as high as people working at and living near nuclear sites. Especially worrying is a recent initiative by Welsh schools to take school children to local beaches to practice football and rugby thus exposing them to higher residency times i.e. in addition to trips to the seaside!

10.1 There is now evidence that there are higher levels of leukaemias and other cancers along the Welsh Coast, and in fact, that Wales, which has a higher rainfall also has a higher rate of all cancers than the rest of the UK with the highest rates along the Welsh coast.(11a) (11B)

11 Plutonium discharged to streams and rivers also tends to build up in the mud and sediment. Some of this will be resuspended by the wind or transferred to land by flooding which in turn means that the particles will become resuspended and re-enter the food chain and be ingested by man and animals. MAFF have monitored levels of over 200 Bq/kg of Plutonium in mussels from the Irish Sea and Scottish West coast; at Drigg, winkles over 260 Bq/kg

11.1 MAFF have found levels of Plutonium in stream sediment at Drigg of up to 1,489 Bq/kg; in mud in River Mite estuary up to 8,560 Bq/kg; Ribble Estuary Savick Brock over 2,000 Bq/kg from Springfields discharges.

11.2 UKAEA Harwell (12) found levels of Plutonium 238, 239+240, 241 in sediment in Lydebank Brook, East Hendred up to 115.3 Bq/kg and in the silt in the River Thames at Sutton Courtenay up to 523 Bq/kg. This Plutonium is discharged from the Harwell site via aerial discharges, and site surface run-off and sewage effluent into Lydebank Brook and direct discharge via a pipeline into the Thames.

11.3 AWE Aldermaston (13) only publish mean values of Plutonium in sediment in local streams of 2 Bq/kg Fisherman’s Lane, Aldermaston village; 4 Bq/kg Padworth Bridge, River Kennet; and claimed no detection at the outfall of the discharge pipeline into the Thames at Pangbourne.. However in a AWE report published in 1988 levels of up to 5,460 Bq/kg of Plutonium were monitored in the centre of the River Thames adjacent to the pipeline outfall.(14) These levels exceeded the NRPB’s existing Generalised Derived Limit (GDL) of 1,000 Bq/kg and this level of Plutonium would still exceed the NRPB’s new relaxed GDL of 5,000 Bq/kg.(15)

11.4 In two confidential letters from F Morgan, UKAEA, AWE, Aldermaston to Sir William Penney, AERE Harwell (1960) it states that radioactive contamination could be detected up to 100 miles from Windscale and at least 8 miles from Aldermaston.(15A)

12 Discharged plutonium also builds up inside buildings in house dust and is inhaled and ingested from breathing and eating contaminated food. Not all of the Plutonium is excreted but builds up in body tissue. These particles then cause constant damage to the cells surrounding it and either kills them or damages them thus causing cancers and genetic defects.(16 )

12.1 UKAEA Harwell have measured levels of Plutonium 239 +240 dust in air remote from nuclear sites (mainly from bomb fallout) at Milford Haven of between <2.0 - 7.7 nBq/kg (mean 4.7 nBq/kg).(16A) AWE Aldermaston (1993) have measured levels of Plutonium dust in air at Burghfield up to 1,403 nBq/m3. UKAEA Harwell (1993) have measured levels of up to 16,300 nBq/m3 adjacent to Chilton School which is adjacent to a radioactive waste tip on the Harwell site. Note levels on Welsh Coast of 50 - 680 nBq/m3.

12.2 Everyone carries a body burden of Plutonium from atmospheric weapons testing and people working at nuclear sites or living nearby will continue to accumulate a rising body burden of Plutonium. A small amount of Plutonium will be excreted along with any other radionuclides present in the body (from bomb fallout, local discharges, work exposure or medical treatments). This radioactivity ends up in the sewage effluent and sludge. This effluent is discharged into local streams, rivers and the sea. The sludge is spread onto agricultural land which means that particles of Plutonium become resuspended, ingested and incorporated into the food chain. The NRPB’s new GDL for Plutonium in sewage sludge is: 4,000 Bq/kg 238Pu, 3,000 Bq/kg 239Pu, 3,000 Bq/kg 240Pu, 100,000 Bq/kg 241Pu.

12.3 The recent Southampton Greenham Study found levels of Plutonium 239+240 in house dust around Greenham Common, Newbury of up to 4.04 Bq/kg but did not publish the levels found in homes where leukaemia cases had occurred.

12.4 NRPB carried out a survey of Plutonium 239 + 240 in body tissue around the UK with the highest body burdens found in former employees of British Nuclear Fuels. NRPB have also published World wide body burdens.(18)(18A)(18B) Extracts shown below:

Concentration of 238 Pu/239Pu + 240Pu in autopsy tissue from occupationally exposed cases in Cumbrians, mBq/kg.

Case No. 39 51 100 Background Median values for all regions except Cumbria
Rib 94 360 130 8 7.4 (30)(b)
Vertebra 100 250 132 7 5.1 (31)
Femur 83 400 91 5.6 3.8 (23)
Liver 320 663 940 52 26 (29)
Lung 120 1,140 450 6.8 2.2 (30)
TBN(a) 1,600 73,300 4,100 not given! 12 (25)

(a) Tracheobronchial lymph nodes (b) number of values

Plutonium 239 + 240 concentrations, mBq/kg wet weight, in autopsy tissue of non-occupationally exposed people from several region of Britain.

  Rib Vertebra Femur Liver Lung Tracheo-bronchial Lymph Nodes
Central Scotland, deaths from June 1980 - July-August 1984. 1.7 - 40 1.7 - 11 1.4 - 8.9 8.9 - 54 0.4 - 7.6 4 - 84
Northeastern England, deaths from April-October 1982, October 1983, August and November 1985. 6 - 233 0.3 - 99 1.5 - 11 9.5 - 59 0.2 - 16 9 - 130
Oxfordshire, deaths from May-July 1980, May-July1984, September 1984 and March-May 1985. 1 - 14 1.9 - 10 1.8 - 8 4.7 - 57 0.6 - 5 1.8 - 36
West Cumbria, deaths 1981 - August 1985 0.4 - 22 3.4 - 11 3.4 - 110 2.2 - 160 1.6 - 17 10 - 145

Plutonium concentrations (mBq/kg) in autopsy tissues from West Cumbrian and North Eastern England general population 18 - 22 year-olds; median value of five cases.

Rib 1.3 Vertebra 1.5 Femur 0.7 Liver 5.2 Lung 2.9

Plutonium concentrations(mBq/kg) in autopsy tissues from West Cumbrian general population, mBq/kg; relationship to age of subjects at death.

19-22 years (5) Rib 1.3 Vertebra 0.9 Femur 0.6 Liver 5.2 Lung 2.9
41 years (1) Rib 4.5 Vertebra 1.5 Femur 3.2 Liver 15.0 Lung 0.6
77 years (12) Rib 8.0 Vertebra 7.0 Femur 5.6 Liver 52.0 Lung 6.8

Plutonium concentrations in autopsy tissues, mBq/kg, median values

Tissue Cumbria Other Regions
Rib 9 (10) 6 (43)
Vertebra 6.9( 9) 4.7(45)
Femur 5.4(11) 3.6(35)
Liver 49 (10) 26 (47)
Lung 6.8(11) 1.9(47)
Tracheobronchial lymph nodes 35 (12) 10 (37)

The figures in brackets are the number of observations.


Concentrations of 239Pu+240Pu, mBq/kg wet weight, in tissues from non-occupationally exposed people.
The values are means or medians*.

Location Year of death Lung TBN Liver Vertebra Rib Femur
Tokyo 1970 8.5(10)   21(10) 41 (5)    
All USA* 1959-76 7.0(705) 97(360) 27(701) 10 (325) 10 (95)  
All USA* 1977 5.9(27) 31(25) 13(28) 4.8(22)    
S.Finland 1976-77 1.0(48) 14(19) 12(48)   1.5(29)  
S.Finland 1978-79 1.5(11)   11(10) 3.0(10) 2.0(10) 2.0 (9)
Austria 1978-79 2.3(5)          
Yorkshire, GB 1980-81 1.9(12)   14(12) 7.5(12)    
Great Britain* 1980-84 2.2(30) 12(25) 26(29) 5.1(31) 7.4(30) 3.8(23)
Washington,DC* 1978-79 3.0(10) 17(10) 22(10) 6.3(10)    
Italy 1982 2.0(10)   23(10) 10 (10)    
E.Colorado,USA5 1979 8.7(519)   37(519)      
Munich,FRG* 1980-81 1.0(29) 2.1(30) 20(28) 3.4(30) 2.7(29)  
New York City 1973-74 2.0(52) 4.1(50) 14(50) 9.3(45)    
Location Year of death Lung TBN Liver Vertebra Rib Femur

12.5 UKAEA scientists have also produced a report relating to the amount of Plutonium found in children’s teeth - up to 5 mBq/kg.(19)

12.6 The School of Health, Biological and Environmental Sciences, Middlesex University are currently measuring the amount of Plutonium excreted by North London schoolchildren (about 1 microBq/day).(19A)

12.7 However in a recent paper it has been suggested that urinalysis makes estimating the systemic plutonium burden problematic. It also states that insoluble particles not exhaled or removed by clearance processes will become trapped in the lungs or will be ingested by macrophages, eventually passing to the respiratory lymph nodes. Likewise, those entering via a wound will either become isolated in fibrotic material or, again, be moved by macrophages to the local lymph nodes. Insoluble plutonium can remain in the lymph nodes for many years. It also states that 3% of the total skeletal plutonium was present in the bone marrow.(19B)

12.8 In another paper it is stated that in an occupationally exposed worker the total body burden of Plutonium was distributed as follows:52.8% was found in the lungs and associated lymph nodes. The remaining 47.2% was mostly in the skeleton (44%), the liver (42%), with the remainder (14%) in the rest of the body.(19C)

12.9 A further paper looked at the total distribution of 239/240 Pu in a radiation worker’s whole body tissue. The total body content was 246 Bq approximately equally divided between the respiratory tract and the remainder of the body. Concentrations were greatest in the lungs and associated lymph nodes. The tracheobronchial lymph nodes contained approximately 17.5% of the total Pu and the concentration in the lymph nodes was 25-fold greater than the concentration in the remainder of the lungs and two to four orders of magnitude greater than found in all other tissues(data). The systemic deposition had equal amounts in the liver and skeleton (41.8% and 42.9% respectively), with approximately 10% in the muscles and skin. About 1.2% of the systemic deposition was found in the spleen. Certain tissues showed elevated concentrations of Pu, including gall bladder, prostate, and pituitary. The pituitary showed a high concentration in relation to its small size which would deliver a dose in the order of that delivered to bone or liver and hence could be of importance from a protection standpoint.(19D)

12.10 Another paper has found that approximately 3% of the total skeletal plutonium is estimated to be resident in the marrow, with the concentration in the red marrow several times greater than the concentration in the yellow marrow.(19E)

12.11 Given that there is incontrovertible evidence that everyone has a body burden of Plutonium distributed throughout their body it is particularly worrying to know that there are studies which indicated that cells that are not traversed by an alpha particle but are within an alpha-particle radiation field and therefore are in the presence of heavily damaged cells display enhanced frequencies of sister chromatid exchanges and enhanced expression of p53.(19F,G,H, I)

13 AWE scientists admit to up to 26 Bq/kg of Plutonium in soil on the Aldermaston site but do not put these figures in their Annual Reports.They only put figures for total alphas. These figures were published in the Southampton University Greenham Survey. AWE claimed in a recent note to the local liaison Committee that the levels found on site of approx. 20 Bq/kg are consistent with background levels! Background levels:0.02-0.7Bq/kg.

14 AWE scientists produced a report of a survey carried out to decontaminate land adjacent to Aldermaston and found up to 15,000 Bq/kg of Plutonium in silt. This report was presented during a High Court Case brought against the MOD by Blue Circle Cement who owned Aldermaston Court. The site has been partially decontaminated and over 5M compensation paid to BCC. The figures in this report are not put in the public domain.(20)

15 In 1998 American, Danish and Russian scientists measured levels of Plutonium contamination near Russian nuclear test sites and sites where accidents had occurred. They found lower levels than those found around most of our nuclear sites, apart from the epicentre of the bomb explosions i.e. between 0.17 and 0.60 Bq/kg near site of nuclear explosions, 1,359 Bq/kg 1.1 Km from Ground Zero and 27,900 Bq/kg at the epicentre.(21)

16 Despite the ever rising levels of Plutonium in our environment from bomb fall-out, satellite re-entry accidents, nuclear accidents and permitted discharges, and the growing evidence of the adverse effects of minute particles of plutonium in the body tissue, NRPB have issued new permitted levels of Plutonium in our environment which are between 3 and 5 times more than their previous Generalised Derived Limits. This seems to have been done to account for the rising levels being admitted to in publicly available data by the Environment Agency, MAFF, Southampton University and the nuclear operators.

17 The monitoring data presented by the Environment Agency, MAFF, Southampton University and nuclear site operators does not include the very high levels monitored and presented in reports not readily available to the Public thus presenting a very unreliable and distorted record not just to the Public but also to Local Councils, Government Ministers, Department of Health and Local Health Authorities. Information given to COMARE has always excluded this data.

18 The levels of Plutonium monitored around nuclear sites is up to 302,857 times mean bomb fallout levels in soil and silt and up to 3,260 times mean bomb fallout levels in air. Despite this fact AWE Aldermaston, UKAEA and BNFL claim their discharges are less than natural background, giving a dose rate of the equivalent of a 10 hour visit to Cornwall, or a 10 hour air flight or eating brazil nuts! This is total rubbish as there is practically no exposure to Plutonium in Cornwall, on an aircraft or in brazil nuts and casts very serious doubts on the nuclear industry’s credibility. These bogus claims are backed up by the NRPB, the Environment Agency, MAFF and Southampton University!

19 According to Southampton University a 10 hour visit to Cornwall gives a gamma dose of up to 130 nG/hr from the natural background radiation. The dose rates received on the UKAEA Harwell site are greater than 195 nG/hr with levels in 1989 and 1990 of 600 nGy/hr which is 4.5 times the highest natural background dose in the UK and is 24 times the natural background for the local geology. The figure given by NRPB for natural background dose rates for the chalk/clay geology of the area around Aldermaston and Harwell is up to 26nG/hr. The NRPB figure given to Parliament on 20 June 1985 for gamma radiation dose at Harwell was 21 nG/hr but the grid reference was on the Ridgeway at East Ginge! However the average background dose both on and off the Harwell site is 80 nG/hr with levels <130 nG/hr on a sportsfield, housing site and Chilton School. These differences in dose-rates makes it difficult to understand how the industry can claim that their discharges are less than background! (21A) (21B)

19.1 Harwell scientists also found out in the early 1950’s that the effects of the radioactive discharges from the BEPO pile at Harwell produced 1 1/2 times normal background radiation levels at a distance of 7 miles, 3 times background levels directly downwind and during temperature inversion 15 times background. (22) It seems that nuclear scientists were more honest about the effects of radioactive discharges in the early days than they are now!

20 The alpha-particle energies from radon and thoron daughters are above 6.0 MeV, and the particles are about unit density. The half life of the radon daughters is 50 mins and thoron daughters 10.6 hours. The half-life of Plutonium is 2.43 x 10^4 with alpha-particle energies of 5.15 MeV of high density. The other problem is self-absorption which is specific to alpha-active and low energy beta-active particles. If a particle is appreciably of larger diameter than 11 microns then alpha-radiation will be absorbed within the particle, and the activity will be under-estimated. This may be of significance depending on the behaviour of the particle in the lung, gut or other organs of the body. Radon was considered benign against the dangerous effects of Plutonium.(23) The rate of all cancers in Cornwall is the lowest in the UK apart from skin cancers,(24) although it has the highest levels of Radon! However it also has the lowest levels of Plutonium.

Conversely workers on nuclear sites and the general population living around these sites have higher rates of all cancers, including leukaemias than the national rate. Levels of Plutonium on and around these sites is also up to thousands of times higher than Cornwall or other areas of the UK remote from nuclear sites but also have very low levels of Radon!

21 Despite the fact that there is growing evidence of the effects of Plutonium particles on the genomic instability of cells and despite the fact that there are elevated levels of leukaemias and other cancers around Dounreay, Sellafield, Aldermaston, Harwell and along the Welsh Coast, the Irish Coast, along the Severn Estuary and along the South Coast successive COMARE studies have stated that the levels of discharges cannot be the cause of these cancers and that the results are either chance findings or caused by other agents, unknown viruses or even population mixing!

22 Despite the existing pollution from bomb-fallout, permitted discharges and accidents the situation will become much worse in the near future when more reprocessing takes place and when MOX fuel is fabricated and then used in reactors.

22.1 Stocks of plutonium held by BNFL at 31 March 1997 amounted to 96.5 tonnes. This is split down as follows: Magnox Electric 47.5t, British Energy 11.5t, UKAEA 1.5t, BNFL and overseas customers 36t. Of this 41t is spent fuel in storage ponds, 2t in intermediate forms, 53.5t as plutonium oxide in store. This stock will rise during th Magnox life cycles with an estimate of 78t by the end of the Magnox programme. British energy estimates that 25t will be created by reprocessing of AGR fuel by 2010. The total UK stockpile of separated plutonium is predicted to reach over 100t by 2010.

22.2 The global total quantity of plutonium, in all forms, was about 1239t (1997) and the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency estimates that 50t of plutonium is generated world-wide every year in spent fuel.

22.3 The stock of military grade plutonium in the UK has never been revealed but the best estimate is between 5 - 11t. World-wide some 250t of military plutonium are held, about a 5th of the total plutonium inventory. (25)

22.4 Future stocks from commercial nuclear fuel are estimated to be 1,500t by the end of 2003 and 2,000t by the year 2009. Much of the Plutonium is and will be manufactured in to MOX fuel to be used to fuel light-water reactors (LWRs) and plutonium recycling is also possible in most pressurised water reactors (PWRs) or boiling water reactors (BWRs.) (26)

23 The implementation of the EURATOM Directive 96/29 will lead to even greater exposure of all radionuclides including Plutonium. The Exemption Values for Plutonium 239 are at present 400 Bq/kg (concentration), the proposed new concentration will be 1,000 Bq/kg. An example of the Exemption Values for Plutonium in recyled aluminium would be 100,000,000 Bq/t with doses calculated for loader, truck driver, processor, worker, operator, caster, sheet worker, siding, automobile and frying pan made out of contaminated metal. Similar levels will be allowed in recycled concrete and steel and with doses calculated for loader, truck driver, processor worker, construction worker, parking lot and inhabitant of new room! Exposure figures have been calculated for building renovation, using tools and equipment and people living downwind of factories and smelting works! The driving force behind the EURATOM Directive is to save the nuclear industry and Governments a great deal of money by reduced decontamination procedures.(27)

24 On a personal level I have lived for 30 years within 3 1/2 miles of Harwell and also worked at Harwell for 23 years as a non-occupationally exposed employee not issued with a film badge. I have paid for a urine sample to be analysed by Prof. Nick Priest, Professor of Toxicology, The School of Health, Biological and Environmental Sciences, Middlesex University and the result is:

Mass of Plutonium 239 present in 2 litres of urine = 0.000842pg

Plutonium 239 activity present in urine = 1.84 microBq

I have also commissioned Southampton University to monitor my home and garden for Plutonium contamination and the results are:

Blewbury, Oxon, Bq/kg dry weight Plutonium 238 Plutonium 239+240
House dust <0.02 0.08 0.02
Loft dust 0.02 0.01 0.34 0.05
Soil turf + 0-2 cm 0.06 0.06 0.40 0.16
Soil 2-5 cm 0.09 0.08 0.39 0.16
Soil 5-8 cm 0.05 0.04 0.36 0.10

25 To conclude I wish to state that there is too much Plutonium in our environment, especially on and around nuclear sites (see Table 1) and that the claims that the discharges are less than background and cause no harm are ingenuous. This Plutonium is building up in body tissue and the food chain with disastrous results.

Wendy MacLeod-Gilford

31 December 1998 (amended and additions to table 1 and references 24 January 1999


TABLE 1

Location

Pu

Bomb fall-out in Northern Hemisphere in soil and silt 0.02 - 0.7 Bq/kg (28)
Bomb fall-out in Northern Hemisphere in air 5 nBq/m3
Semipalatinsk-21 Russia 1.1km from Ground Zero 1,295 - 1,359 Bq/kg
Semipalatinsk-21 Russia epicentre 27,900 Bq/kg
Akzhar (village nearby) 0.47 -1.3 Bq/kg
Kainar 0.17 - 0.28 Bq/kg
Aldermaston Court Lake silt 15,000 Bq/kg
AWE Aldermaston/Burghfield 26 Bq/kg
AWE Aldermaston/Burghfield in air 1,403 nB/m3
AWE pipeline River Thames Pangbourne in silt 5,460 Bq/kg
Area between Harwell and Aldermaston up to 10.5 Bq/kg
UKAEA Harwell, Southern Storage Site, next to School 107 (29) Bq/kg
UKAEA Harwell, Southern Storage Site in air 16,300 nB/m3
UKAEA, Sutton Courtenay, River Thames sediment 523 Bq/kg
UKAEA, East Hendred,Lydebank Brook sediment 115.3 Bq/kg
BNFL Ravenglass Estuary, grass mat + soil 106,000 Bq/kg (30)
BNFL Ravenglass Estuary, sheep liver 9.3 Bq/kg (30)
BNFL Ravenglass Estuary, cattle liver 0.55 Bq/kg (30)
BNFL Sellafield, soil 0.9 - 11 Bq/kg (30)
BNFL Sellafield, leafy vegetables 0.36 Bq/kg (30)
BNFL Newbiggin silt Pu241 159,000 Bq/kg (31)
BNFL Newbiggin silt Pu239/240 5,500 Bq/kg (31)
BNFL Ehen Spit sand 3,050 Bq/kg
FL Drigg stream sediment 1,400 Bq/kg
South Coast Goatshead Peninsular Pool Harbour 9 Bq/kg
Welsh Coast Kinmel Bay - suspended sediment 224 Bq/kg
Welsh Coast Kinmel Bay - filtered seawater 3.3 mBq/l
Welsh Coast Kinmel Bay - air 680 nBq/m3
Trawsfyndd hot lagoon - mud 2,115 Bq/kg
Trawsfyndd hot lagoon - lake top 382.61 Bq/kg
Dounreay, Oigins Geo sludge 850.0 Bq/kg
North Welsh Coast, Lavan Sands Pu238 2.15kBq/m2(32)
North Welsh Coast, Lavan Sands Pu239+240 12.4 kBq/m2 (32)
Milford Haven (remote monitoring site) rain 1987 25 microBq/l (33)
S W Scotland, River Nith tide washed pastures Pu238 3,800 Bq/m2 (34)
S W Scotland, River Nith tide washed pastures Pu239+240 22.000 Bq/m2 (34)
S W Scotland, River Err - Pu238 9,500 Bq/m2 (34)
S W Scotland, River Err - Pu239+240 55,000 Bq/m2 (34)
S W Scotland, River - Dee Pu238 5,500 Bq/m2 (34)
S W Scotland, River - Dee Pu239+240 32,000 Bq/m2 (34)
S W Scotland, River - Cree Pu238 5,700 Bq/m2 (34)
S W Scotland, River - Cree Pu239+240 31,000 Bq/m2 (34)

REFERENCES

(1) NRPB R281, Speciation and Foodchain Availability of Plutonium Accidentally Released from Nuclear Weapons, B T Wilkins et al, March 1996.

(1A) Radioactivity in books produced during the last fifty years, Lalit, BY et al, Nature 16 (12) 1983.

(1B) British civil plutonium; production and fate, K W J Barnham et al, Nature. Vol.333, 23 June 1988.

(2) AERE R10155, UKAEA Harwell Survey of Caesium-137 and Plutonium in British Soils in 1977, Feb. 1986, Cawse & Horrill.

(3) Southern England Monitoring Programme Annual Reports, Southampton University, Dr Ian Croudace.

(4) The Distribution of Uranium-235 and Plutonium-239 around the United States Airforce Base, Greenham Common, Berkshire, July 1961 by F H Cripps & A Stimson, AWRE, Aldermaston.

(5) An Investigation of Radioactive Contamination at Greenham Common, Newbury District and Surrounding Areas, Final Report, Southampton University, 1997 Dr Ian Croudace.

(6) NRPB-M752, Assessment of Radionuclide Levels around the former Air Base at Greenham Common, Berkshire by F A Fry & B T Wilkins, December 1996.

(7) Berkshire Health Authority Report, Incidence and Mortality from Leukaemia and other cancers in Newbury District Council Area, May 1997.

(8) Childhood leukaemia and radioactive pollution from the Atomic Weapons facilities at Aldermaston and Bughfield in West Berkshire: Causation and Mechanisms, Chris Busby, PhD, Green Audit, Aberystwyth, Wales, Occasional Paper 98/1, January 1998.

(8A) Paper 30/97, Epidemiology of Childhood Leukaemia in Oxfordshire, Dr Sian Griffiths, Director of Public Health & Health Policy May 1997.

(8B) Death Rates from leukaemia are higher than expected in areas around nuclear sites in Berkshire and Oxfordshire, Dr Chris Busby & Molly Scot Cato, Green Audit (Wales), Aberystwyth. BMH Vol.515 2 August 1997.

(9) MAFF Annual Monitoring reports from 1989 - 1997.

(10) NRPB-M755, radiological assessment of the development of trawsfynydd lake for leisure activities, A D Carey et al. 1996

(11) AERE R-12535, A survey of background levels of environmental radioactivity in Wales, 1984-1986 (pre-chernobyl) by P A Cawse and R S Cambray, March 1988

(11A) Proximity to the Irish Sea and Leukaemia Incidence at ages 0-4 in Wales from 1974 - 1979, Chris Busby, PhD et al, Green Audit Occasional Paper 98/4, August 1998.

(11B) Beside the Seaside by Chris Busby, The Ecologist, Vol. 28, No.6 Nov/Dec.1998.

(12) UKAEA Harwell Annual Monitoring Reports 1990 - 1997.

(13) AWE Annual Monitoring Reports 1993 - 1997.

(14) Radionuclide Levels in River Sediment near to a Treated Effluent Outfall, R G C Gallop et al, AWRE, The Science of the Total Environment, 70 (1988) pp 237-251.

(15) NRPB Vol.9, No.1,1998, Generalised Derived Limits for Plutonium etc.

(15A) First Affidavit, sworn 29 July 1996, Paul William Roper, The Ministry of Defence, Case No. NB 601627 in the Newbury County Court between K Howse, A Jones, R Bremer, S Hipperson, P Walford, J Hutchinson Plaintiffs and The Ministry of Defence Defendant.

(16) Prof. Eric Wright, Haematologist, Medical Research Council, Chilton, Transmission of chromosomal instability after plutonium alpha-particle irradiation, Nature Vol. 355, 10 Feb. 1992.

(16A) AERE R-13226 (DOE/RW/89/0590 Radioactive fallout in air and rain: Results to end of 1987, R S Cambray et al, JUNE 1989

(17) Low Level Radiation Conference Greenwich, 1998. Prof. Eric Wright, and Dr John Stather, NRPB.

(18) Plutonium and Caesium 137 in autopsy tissues in Great Britain, D S Popplewell, et al, NRPB, The Science of the Total Environment 70, 1988, pp 321-334.

(18A) Plutonium in Autopsy Tissues in Great Britain, D S Popplewell, et al, NRPB, Health Physics, Vol. 49, No. 2 August 1985, pp 304-309.

(18B) Plutonium in Autopsy Tissues in Great Britain, D S Popplewell, NRPB, Radiological Protection Bulletin No. 74, 1986.

(19) Variations in the concentration of plutonium,strontium 90 and total alpha-emitters in human teeth collected within the British Isles, O’Donnell R G, Priest, N D and others, Science of the Total Environment 201 (1997) pp235-243.

(19A) Personal communication from Professor of Environmental Toxicology, Nick Priest 22 June 1998.

(19B) Chromosome Aberrations in Radiation Workers with Internal Deposits of Plutonium, Caroline A Whitehouse et al, Radiation Research 150, pp 459-468 (1998).

(19C) Biokenetics of Nuclear Fuel Compounds and Biological Effects of Nonuniform Radiation, Sakari Lang et al, Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 103, No. 10, October 1995.

(19D) U.S. Transuranium Registry Report on the 239Pu Distribution in a human body, J F McInroy et al, Health Physics Vol. 60, No.3 (March 1991), pp 307-333.

(19E) Plutonium content in marrow and mineralised bone in an occupationally exposed person, J F McInroy et al, Radiation Protection Dosimetry, Vol. 32, No. 4, pp 245-252 (1990).

(19F) Enhanced Neoplastic Transformation in an Inhomogeneous Radiation Field: An Effect of the Presence of Heavily Damaged Cells, Martina Sigg, Nigel E Crompton & Werner Burkart, Radiation Research 148, 1997, pp543-547.

(19G) Induction of Sister Chromatid Exchanges by extremely Low Doses of alpha-particles, H Nagasawa & J B Little, Cancer Research, 52, 1992 pp6394-6396.

(19H) Alpha-particle-induced sister chromatid exchanges in normal human lung fibroblasts: Evidence for an extranuclear target, A Deshpande, E H Goodwin, S M Bailey, B L Marrone and B E Lehnert, Radiation Research, 145 (1996) pp260-267.

(19I) Alpha-particle-induced p53 protein expression in a rat lung epithelial cell strain, W Hickman, R J Jaramillo, J F Lechner & N F Johnson, Cancer Research, 54, 1994 pp4797-5800.

(20) D.Safety/AWE SDTN 31/91,Results of the Radiological Survey of the Stream, Lake and Adjacent areas in the grounds of Aldermaston Court, Berkshire, August & October 1991 by J I Parker, March 1992.

(21) Isotopic Pu, U, and Np signatures in soils from Semipalatinsk-21, Kazakh Republic and the Southern Urals, Russia, T M Beasley et al, Jnl. of Environ. Radioactivity, Vol. 39, No.2, pp 215-230, 1998.

(21A) SURRC Airborne and Vehicular Gamma Spectrometry Report, Final Report January 1998, D C W Sanderson et al.

(21B) ATOM 347, September 1985, page 47.

(22) Some observations on the control of radiation hazards at AERE Harwell, by W G Marley MOS, Conference on Biological Hazards of Atomic Energy, Institute of Biology and Atomic Scientists’ Association October 1950.

(23) Radiological Monitoring of the Environment, ed. B C Godbold & J K Jones, Proc. of Symposium, Berkeley, Gloucestershire, October 1963.

(24) Atlas of Cancer Incidence in England and Wales 1994.

(25) Management of Separated Plutonium, The Royal Society, February 1998.

(26) OECD update on the management of separted plutonium by C J Joseph, Chairman of the OECD/NEA ad hoc expert group on separated plutonium, the technical options. Paper first presented at the BNES conference Top Fuel ‘97, Manchester 9-11 June 1997 and published in Nuclear Energy, Dec.1997, No. 36 pp 417 - 425.

(27) Application of Exemption Principles to the Recycle and Reuse of Materials from Nuclear Facilities - A Safety Practice, Safety Series No. 111-P-1.1, IAEA 1992

(28) A Highly efficient technique for the determination of plutonium and uranium in soils following a borate fusion, I W Croudace et al, Analytical Chemistry 1997.

(29) Survey of Southern Storage Site, 1993.

(30) Radioactivity in Environmental Samples taken in the Sellafield and Ravenglass areas of West Cumbria, 1977 - 1982, W R Bradford, E J C Curtis, MAFF & D S Popplewell, NRPB, The Science of the Total Environment, 35 (1984), pp267-283.

(31) Terrestrial Radioactivity Monitoring Programme, Radioactivity in food and agricultural products in England and Wales, MAFF TRAMP/5 Report 1990.

(32) Artificial Radioactivity on the Coasts of Wales,J A Garland, R S Cambray, et al., DOE/RW/89/108 (AERE G5307/DOE PECD 7/9/368) Commissioned Research on Radioactive Waste Management 1989/90, July 1989.

(33) Radioactive Fallout in Air and Rain; Results to the end of 1987, R S Cambray, K Playford, G N J Lewis, R C Carpenter, DOE/RW/89/059 (AERE R 13226) June 1989.

(34) Artificial radioactivity in tide washed pastures in South West Scotland, W A McKay, et al, AEA Technology, DOE/HMIP/RR/91/056 (DOE PECD 7/9/543, Sector No.2.4) June 1991, Period covered by report May 1990 - June 1991. HMIP commissioned research.


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