Published: March 29, 2011
Hinkley Point uranium contamination fears are 'unfounded'

The Environment Agency has said this week that claims that soil around Hinkley Point nuclear power station, near Burnham-On-Sea, is contaminated with enriched uranium are "unfounded".

The claim was made by environmental consultancy group Green Audit at a public meeting earlier this year.

The agency said on Tuesday (March 29th) it has carried out its own investigation and has found no enriched uranium is present.

Green Audit says its review of the results suggests the agency's investigation is "flawed".

Hinkley A, which closed in 2000 and is undergoing decommissioning, used natural uranium. But advanced gas-cooled reactors, such as Hinkley B, use enriched uranium, which is more radioactive.

Green Audit said EDF's own data tables suggested the proposed new site contained about 10 tonnes of enriched uranium from spent reactor fuel.

The Environment Agency, which regulates discharges from nuclear plants, said it undertook soil sampling "in view of public concerns that the allegations may have caused".

Samples were taken on the proposed site and at three nearby farms and were analysed using mass spectrometry, a method of measuring radioactive levels.

"The results of our sampling show that no enriched uranium is present," said The Environment Agency's David Bennettn in a statement on Tuesday.

"Uranium is present naturally in small quantities in all rocks and soils. The levels of uranium found in the soil samples taken both on and off the site are low, and at naturally occurring levels."

However, Professor Chris Busby, from Green Audit, told the BBC it was "unacceptable" that the agency had taken samples without their representatives or the local Stop Hinkley campaign group being present as observers.

"The issue is essentially one of trust," he said, adding that the results "cannot therefore be used to reassure anyone".

He added that Green Audit had carried out its own gamma survey in February and discovered that radiation was significantly higher than values that had previously been reported for the site.

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