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NIS UPDATE 23rd April 2007
Plutonium and Cs137 autopsy controversy – Sellafield and AWE
Michael Redfern,QC is to conduct a full investigation into the autopsy tissues from nuclear sites controversy. This research is no secret. The National Radiological Protection Board (now the Health Protection Agency) carried out a comprehensive study of nuclear workers and the general public and reported in 1986. Extracts from NRPB Radiological Protection Bulletin (74) July 1986 by D S Popplewell pp10-12 are given below:
From time to time since 1972 we have measured the plutonium content of tissues taken post mortem from people who had worked in the plutonium-processing industries including some from Sellafield Works in Cumbia. As part of the programme we wished to compare these results with the tissue plutonium concentrations of people who had not worked in the nuclear energy industries. Accordingly we commenced a series of plutonium analyses of tissues removed post mortem from members of the general public, who might be expected to have received their body deposits of plutonium from fallout from explosions of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere.
Autopsy tissues were obtained from Scotland, north-eastern England, Oxfordshire and western Cumbria. The subjects were at least 50 years old at the time of death. ……Attempts were made to ensure that the subjects had not been occupationally exposed to plutonium, though often this information was not available. The major sites of plutonium deposition in the body are bone, liver and lung (after inhalation), therefore these were the organs selected for analysis……
The report of the Black Committee (Ref.4) (1984) directed attention to post mortem assessments of tissue levels of radionuclides as a possible source of information on human exposure. Consequently, tissues of some young people were examined. The results from these victims of road traffic accidents are shown in Table 3.
The Black Committee recommended that "greater emphasis (should be) placed on the collection and consideration….of human data relevant to the possible health consequences of discharges." However, there are legal difficulties in obtaining autopsy material (Ref 5).
(Ref 4) Investigation of the possible increased incidence of cancer in West Cumbria. Report of the independent Advisory Group (chairman, Sir Douglas Black). London, HMSO p77 (1984)
(Ref 5) Legal considerations in the retention of post mortem material, Knight, B, Bull. Roy. College Path (1985).
Further reading at: www.llrc.org/plutonium/subtopic/plutonium_pollution.htm.
The data relating to the autopsy results is in Section 12.4, refs 18,18A & 18B
(Ref.18) Plutonium & Cs137 in autopsy tissues, D S Popplewell, NRPB, 'The Science of the Total Environment', 70, 1988, p321-334.
(Ref.18A) Plutonium and Cs137 in autopsy tissues in Great Britain by D S Popplewell, NRPB, Health Physics, Vol. 49, 2 Aug. 1985 pp304-309.
(Ref. 18B) NRPB Radiation Protection Bulletin No.74, 1986.
One minute particle of plutonium lodged in any part of the body will continue to constantly irradiate surrounding tissue during the whole lifetime of the person. Unfortunately the IAEA and all other nuclear watchdog organisations still continue to use outdated and poor models to estimate dose rate and risk.
A Personal Testimony: My father died at Sellafield (aged 39) and his body was taken for a post mortem without the family's permission. Yes, I agree there should be research, but it should be independent. Consent should be given, informed consent – which is difficult when a family is grieving – and the research should be made public. Almost all of the key elements in terms of openness, protocols etc are totally missing in the Sellafield cases. I also think that similar things would have happened at a number of nuclear sites, particularly those dealing with weapons/plutonium issues, e.g. Dounreay, Harwell, Aldermaston.
AWE worker contamination
In the 1980 and early 90s, the case of an AWE (AWRE) victim was in the news. In an on-site industrial health check, a female laundry worker was found to have ‘plutonium spots’ on her lungs. Subsequent checks did not report this data. The woman later developed breast and lymph cancer and after she died, the family felt it was unsafe to scatter her ashes in case they were contaminated. In her lifetime, the woman tried, through her union, to get AWE to accepted liability, but this was unsuccessful. NIS is assisting the family to ascertain if tissue samples were taken without consent after her death, and for any results to be made available. To date they have not been contacted by AWE to offer any information.
No Current AWE Planning Applications
There are no outstanding Planning Applications lodged with West Berkshire Council from AWE since the office blocks were approved in January this year.
White Tower Nursery Re-Application
On 18th April West Berks planning committee rejected two applications, for six Almshouses and 14 large detached houses just outside the settlement boundary of Aldermaston village. The site is well within the AWE 3 Kilometre Counter Measure Zone (CMZ) where residents and businesses are warned that they may have to take shelter or evacuate in the event of a radiation release from the weapons facility. NIS argued that any increase in population would put further strain on the emergency services in the event of an AWE accident. In particular, supporting a vulnerable group during a time of shelter would be difficult. But this was not the reason for the committee’s rejection. The Officers’ advice was that the application would under-use the site and that a plan should be submitted for 60 flats and houses to accommodate some of the 1,000 extra workers to be taken on at AWE. NIS will be seeking a meeting with the EPO to discuss the implications of such a major development inside the CMZ.
Groups from all over the country continue to protest and take nonviolent direct action against the new developments at AWE. Twelve people were arrested for blockading the A340 for over an hour on 10th April where traffic approaches AWE. Police diverted non-AWE traffic to keep it moving. At least 5 people chained themselves together and were arrested at AWE’s Boilerhouse Gate on 23rd April where the road was blocked for about an hour by groups from Scotland and elsewhere. Protesters were from the anti-Trident group Trident Ploughshares and ‘Block the Builders’. The action highlighted the view that a decision to renew Britain’s nuclear weapons was made years before the parliamentary vote on Trident last month. In 2005 AWEML was given a £5 billion refit contract after the signing of the Mutual Defence Agreement with the USA which allows thesharing of nuclear information between the USA and Britain.
Report and pictures: http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2007/04/367619.html
Trident Ploughshares http://www.tridentploughshares.org/aldermaston
Block the Builders http://www.blockthebuilders.org.uk
Aldermaston Women’s Camp: http://www.aldermaston.net