Dog deaths remain a puzzle

Somerset County Gazette, 6th May 2006

ANTI-NUCLEAR campaigners say they are still puzzled after high radiation was thought to have been the cause of the death of two dogs on Kilve beach.

Nuclear radiation levels along West Somerset's coastline were pronounced within acceptable limits' by the Environment Agency this week after it stepped up monitoring following the incident in August.

Jim Duffy, of anti-nuclear group Stop Hinkley, told the County Gazette: "We've been monitoring Kilve and other beaches along the coast and we've found levels you'd expect near a nuclear power station, which is good news. But that doesn't take away from what happened last August which is still a puzzle."

And he criticised the Environment Agency for being slow to investigate the incident. He said: "Had they been a bit quicker they would undoubtedly have found more evidence."

The Environment Agency has denied it was slow in responding, claiming it had taken time to arrange a date when both parties could attend.

An inquiry was launched after a local man whose two dogs died from stomach cancer following regular walks at the popular beauty spot took a Geiger counter to the beach to check for radiation.

The man, who requested anonymity, allegedly found a 20 metre square area of high contamination.

His readings were passed on to the Environment Agency, which is responsible for water quality around Britain's coast.

In a statement, British Energy said there was no cause for public concern'.

This week, the Environment Agency said their investigations over the last five months at local beaches including Kilve, Watchet Harbour, Blue Anchor, Steart Flats, and Hinkley Point Beach showed no radiation activity above background levels.

Gamma dose rates were also found to be within the normal range.

Anil Koshti, a spokesman for the agency, said: "Strontium-90 was present at extremely low levels and within normal limits.

"However, as a precaution we have advised Hinkley A site operators to cease certain pond operations until we are satisfied measures are in place to ensure radioactivity is kept to a minimum."

British Nuclear Group, the operators of Hinkley Point, are authorised by the agency to discharge small amounts of radioactivity contained in liquid effluents into the Bristol Channel.

Mr Duffy said: "The fact that nothing was found suggests that whatever it was came in on the tide and was washed away again.

"As the Environment Agency has asked the British Nuclear Group to stop cleaning out cooling ponds so we can assume that's where the radioactive substance came from."

He said hot spent fuel rods were put in the ponds for several months to cool down before being taken to Sellafield for re-processing.

Radioactive cladding could fall off into the pool, where it could be flushed out into the sea, he said.

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