What's hidden in the Hinkley mud?

Hinkley Power Station from offshore (c) Reading Tom

What’s Hiding in Hinkley’s Mud?

Fresh doubts were raised at Neil McEvoy AM’s weekly press briefing (13/02/2018) about tests made for radioactivity in the mud which energy company EDF proposes to dump in Cardiff’s inshore waters this summer.

Neil McEvoy AM invited independent researchers Dr Chris Busby, Tim Deere-Jones and Richard Bramhall to present new evidence at his weekly briefing for the Welsh media in the Assembly. They voiced concerns that previous findings of radioactive particles in river mud near Hinkley and Sellafield nuclear power plants should have been matched in data relied on for issuing EDF’s licence to dump, but were not.

They claimed this strongly suggests that important evidence has been missed, overlooked or possibly left out, with recent testing limited in its scope and unable to detect the ‘hot particles’ of plutonium, uranium and other nuclides that can lead to a legacy of dangerous effects. They pointed out that the limited set of most recent samples have been destroyed and cannot be re-tested.

Together they called for the internationally recognised precautionary principle to apply – that as there is an unknown but predictable potential risk from sediment at the outfall of a nuclear facility where levels of radioactive particles have increased, adequate testing of the mud must take place there before EDF removes 300,000 tonnes for dumping in water only 2.8 km from Cardiff.

Neil McEvoy AM said “I’m not in a position to be able to endorse these findings, but I believe they raise questions which, despite my pressing the relevant bodies and the Labour government in the Assembly repeatedly, have so far gone unanswered. If the answers are known, they should be made public – if they are not known, then the dumping should not go ahead until tests are done.

“The costs of testing are trivial when set against the potential health costs should the bland reassurances given turn out to be mistaken. Not only will the health of people along the length of the south Wales coast, and Cardiff in particular, be put at risk, but also wildlife in an internationally important and protected location”.

 

The panel members presenting their new findings included:

  • Dr Chris Busby, Director of independent environmental consultancy, Green Audit. He has a first-class Honours degree in Chemistry (London University) and a PhD in chemical physics (University of Kent). He is Scientific Secretary on the European Committee on Radiation Risk, and former member and author of the Minority Report on the findings of the UK government’s Scientific Advisory Committee Examining Radiation Risks of Internal Emitters (CERRIE).
  • Richard Bramhall, Company Secretary of the Low Level Radiation Campaign (LLRC) since incorporation (1996) which researches and publicises the health effects of radioactivity in the environment. He was a member of the UK Government's Scientific Advisory Committee Examining Radiation Risks of Internal Emitters (2001-2004) and a co-author of its Minority Report

The panel explained that they have been examining the data released by CEFAS (advisers to NRW and EDF) following a successful FOI demand, and found significant lapses in the scope, the reporting and in the data set itself. After studying the data set, Richard Bramhall said “this is not merely a case that nothing was found and therefore there is little or no risk. We’ve been forced to ask ourselves, is there a suggestion here of a deliberate attempt to ‘look the other way’?”

 

 

NOTES provided by Low Level Radioactivity Campaign and Green Audit:

  1. Missing samples: In the raw data for Hinkley mud obtained from CEFAS under Freedom of I the numerical sequence is discontinuous, suggesting that several samples may have been omitted. The sample set from which that data was derived is itself now missing, believed destroyed.
  2. Enriched Uranium: CEFAS did not report the levels of Uranium-235 for any sample, but the raw data show up to double the natural proportion of U-235. This points to nuclear power or nuclear weapons as the source. It confirms Green Audit's 2011 findings of high U-235 levels on the Hinkley Point site itself
  3. The proportion of U-235 was significantly greater in the 2017 samples than in the 2013 samples suggesting that material containing enriched Uranium was added to the offshore sediment during the intervening period.
  4. Americium-241 was present in many of the samples but was not reported or was dismissed by CEFAS. Am-241 indicates the presence of Plutonium-241, Pu-239 and Pu-238. Levels of Am-241 were significantly higher than reported for sediment in the same area in the 2016 RIFE report[1].
  5. Europium-155 was present in most samples but not reported by CEFAS.
  6. Lead-210 and Polonium-210: Significant quantities of these isotopes were present in most of the samples but not reported by CEFAS. Po-210 is a significant alpha emitter hazard which poisoned Alexander Litvinenko.
  7. Caesium-137: Levels of Cs-137 were significantly higher than those reported in RIFE 2016 for sediment in the same area. Levels were significantly higher in 2013 than in 2017 which cannot easily be attributed to radioactive decay.

[1] RIFE = Radioactivity in Food and the Environment ; RIFE 1, (1995) p.30 re Hinkley Point: concentrations ... represent the combined effects of releases from "other establishments which discharge into the Bristol Channel, from Sellafield, and from fallout." RIFE 22 (2016) p. 123: concentrations of radionuclides in aquatic environment represent the combined effect of releases from Hinkley stations, other Bristol Channel stations and "Sellafield, weapons testing and Chernobyl fallout" Before the RIFE series "Aquatic Environmental Monitoring Reports" record the presence of transuranic nuclides from the station and from Sellafield in Hinkley marine samples.

 

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