LLRC Journal Radioactive Times. Vol.4 No 1

Harwell and NRPB reinterpret waste threshold
Historic discharges written off as "Background"

Report from Radioactive Times Volume 4, Number 1, June 2000 (content not updated)

Understandably disappointed about the decision by Mr Meacher to throw out the Euratom Directive approach and hold the Radioactive Substances 1993 Act’s 400Bq/Kg definition of radioactive waste, the nuclear industry is up to its tricks again.

UKAEA owns a valuable development site at Harwell formerly occupied by prefabricated houses -- home to the families of hundreds of staff at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment. It stands next to the Southern Storage Area which as a consequence of all the nefarious historic nuclear practices is contaminated with a witches' brew of plutonium, uranium, caesium and so forth, tipped away in the heady days of power too cheap to meter. UKAEA wants to cash in on the development site and have obtained planning consent for 275 houses there. At the same time the adjacent Chilton primary school built 50 years ago for the children of AERE staff and sited on the very edge of the SSA, is to be pulled down and rebuilt, helped by a grant of more than £300,000 from (guess who) UKAEA under a Section 106 agreement completed earlier this year. Perhaps this is to encourage the house buyers by displaying the children as miners' canaries. UKAEA is also to provide social housing, a shop, a community room, a play area and equipment, a playing field and a sports pavilion under other Section 106 agreements.

UKAEA consulted with NRPB and also employed consultants Dames and Moore to advise on the ‘remediation’ of the contaminated site. The D&M report was then sent along to the local Vale of the White Horse Council who sent it for ‘Peer Review’ to another group of tame consultants, ‘Aspinwalls’. They agreed the D&M remediation report.

The scam -- Natural Background Again.

Both the environmental consultants agreed, early in their reports, that the SoLa level of 400 Bq/kg defining radioactive waste was to be interpreted as meaning 400Bq/kg above natural background. They both agreed the present natural background level at the Harwell site. This they both found was 700Bq/kg. As they pointed out, there is considerable variation in the radioactive levels in soils around the UK. What they omitted to state was that the level of radioactivity in the chalky areas of the Vale of the White Horse was considerably less than 700Bq/kg, and of the order of perhaps 100Bq/kg.

Their next move was to say that since the 400Bq/kg was the permitted level, they could add the two figures together to give 1100 Bq/kg, and this is the level of contamination deemed by the reports to be that which ‘remediation’ is aimed at producing. In other words, they merely have to plough the soil up and mix it all together.

This is a serious scam, and must not be allowed to pass because this principle would allow the nuclear industry to dispose of all its waste by adding contamination to the whole country by an extra 400Bq/kg. The number of kilogrammes available in the mass of the UK is quite sufficient.

External doses

There is another way at looking at the Harwell site that bypasses all the phony modelling methodology employed by the twin consultants. Happily, NRPB published maps of gamma backgound levels in the UK in 1989. These show that the background dose rate on the Vale of the White Horse ouside the Harwell site is about 20nGy/hr. This is due to natural background (probably including weapons fallout etc.) but excluding the historic Harwell contamination

Measured background doses on the Harwell site average 100nGy/hr. The extra 80nGy is the gamma component of all the contamination, and on its own would give an extra annual dose of about 0.7mSv. to anyone living on the site.
This is about half the normal annual exposure in the UK and impossible to justify.


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