Electricité de France once more plans to dredge contaminated mud from the Severn Estuary near Hinkley Point and dump it on the South Wales coast. This is a re-run of 2018, but far bigger.
The Welsh environment agency, Natural Resources Wales (NRW), has run a public consultation on a proposed regime for testing the mud. It can't tell whether the mud is safe or not. This is the same issue LLRC raised in 2018. The tests are too crude to detect fine particles of uranium and plutonium which we know are present because they are emitted from routine operation of nuclear reactors as well as from fuel reprocessing at Sellafield, leaks, accidents and nuclear weapons. Particles up to 29 microns diameter are an inhalation hazard because in light winds they become airborne. We have found large numbers in vehicle air filters and shoreline samples. This contamination can't be retrieved from the environment but any particles that are now buried in the mud are in the safest place — best to leave them there.
The background shows that the Welsh Government believes public concern about the mud is irrational and is driven by "liars and scaremongers" (as Environment Secretary Lesley Griffiths said in 2018). In fact, in order to comply with the law, Ministers and NRW need to address uncertainties and knowledge gaps.
The Environment (Wales) Act 2016, which both NRW and Mr. Drakeford are bound by, requires special care when there are uncertainties.
In an interview in October 2018 Mr. Drakeford said he had "seen all the scientific evidence on the mud issue …" and he thought it told him people "should not be unduly concerned " about it.
It is inconceivable that the First Minister really has seen all the scientific evidence. We don't believe he is aware of the large amount of evidence in peer-reviewed scientific journals showing that inhalation of uranium and plutonium particles causes cancer, leukaemia and congenital malformation at far higher rates than government advisers and the nuclear industry admit. The reason for this discrepancy is that the conventional idea of "dose" is meaningless for this type of exposure.
... is in a report at Radiation and reason: The impact of science on a culture of confusion. It identifies and explains substantial problems with the official and industry view of radiation risk, especially for inhaled particles. We can call this an "uncertainty", which the law in Wales recognises as significant (see Explanatory Note to Part 1 Section 4 of the Environment (Wales) Act 2016)
The report is commissioned by Children with Cancer UK
The interview with Mr. Drakeford is here.
This link takes you to material we posted two years ago about the role of Natural Resources Wales in issuing the 2014 Marine Licence that allowed the 2018 episode of dumping. It provides a lot of the background to the episode that is now unfolding in 2020. A significant development has been the donation of the engine air filter from a car that had been used exclusively for short journeys from a base 5km from Hinkley Point nuclear power station. LLRC has tested it, finding high concentrations of inhalable uranium particles smaller than 10 microns which are highly mobile in the environment. This means that people are exposed to the risk of inhaling the same material.
For years the Low Level Radiation Campaign has supported British ex-Servicemen seeking compensation for diseases they believed were caused by their exposure to radioactive fallout during Atomic Weapons tests in the 1950s and '60s. In 2016 we asked for financial help in representing a group of 16 men. We met our target and spent £22,000 on expenses for the legal team and bringing expert witnesses from UK, Ireland, Germany and Japan. Everyone on the veterans' team acted without pay.
Just before Christmas 2016 the Tribunal rejected the appeals. We lodged a further appeal against the very unfair way the hearings were conducted. A report will be posted here when possible.
Read on for more reporting and links to the most important court documents.
How we got here (archive)
LLRC's chief scientific advisor is Professor Chris Busby. His curriculum vitae is here