Irish Sea nuclear dumping "no health threat"

Official report finds potential radiation very low; Irish Greens, Labour, criticise conclusions

The risk posed to human health and marine life by tonnes of UK radioactive waste dumped in the Irish Sea is extremely low, concludes a report by Ireland's marine ministry. The study was launched after the UK government disclosed the dumping in 1997. Radioactive material from industrial and laboratory sources was dumped at six sites between the 1950s and 1976 off the west coast of Scotland, north-west England, north Wales and northern Ireland.

A marine ministry task force measured radioactive concentrations in the Irish Sea, which separates Britain and Ireland. Its report finds potential radiation doses to be "significantly below those arising from natural radioactivity in the Irish Sea" and minimal compared with waste discharged from Britain's Sellafield nuclear plant. The report also finds that it would not be necessary nor practical to try and retrieve the dumped material but says that caution should be exercised in carrying out any works that might disturb the seabed where the material had been dumped.

Ireland's opposition Green and Labour parties quickly criticised the report. A Green party representative said the report was more of a "face saving exercise" than a scientific report, and a Green MEP that there was "no safe level of radiation".

Claims of dumping at sea by a cargo company made by a retired Irish seaman to the Irish Times in 1998 could not be substantiated by the official investigating team, made up of a legal expert, academics and officials from the Irish radiological protection institute, maritime safety and nuclear safety ministries. They concluded that his recollection was more likely to be of toxic than radioactive waste.

Follow Up:
Irish marine ministry, tel: +353 1 678 5444.

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