Western Daily Press, BY TINA ROWE, 26 April 2007

A furious row has broken out over claims that an unexpected cluster of cancer cases has been found near Hinkley Point nuclear power station. Anti-nuclear campaigners yesterday claimed the death rate from breast cancer in one part of Burnham-on-Sea was 70 per cent above the national average for the 10 years to 2005.

But local health chiefs dismissed the findings as a statistical blip and said there was no reason to be concerned about a health risk from the plant.

Dr Chris Busby, from consultancy Green Audit, was commission by the campaign group Stop Hinkley. He analysed figures from the Office of National Statistics and found that in the Burnham North electoral ward 41 deaths from breast cancer were recorded in 1995-2005, while he would have expected only 24 for the size of population.

Dr Busby has now begun investigating the infant mortality rate in the area around Hinkley - including west, mid and north Somerset . He said his study showed clear evidence of a cancer cluster, "in my opinion related to releases or a release from Hinkley Point."

Jim Duffy, spokesman for Stop Hinkley, said: "The figures speak for themselves and all sorts of white-washing have not stood up to reasoned examination.

"Some environmental cause is triggering these cancers and logic points to Hinkley's constant sea and air discharge of radioactive particles upwind of the town: a good reason to shut down these crumbling reactors."

Health advisors with Somerset Primary Care Trust have questioned Dr Busby's conclusions, saying that where small numbers and short periods of time are involved the figures could be misleading, and that it is also unsafe to draw the conclusion that the nuclear power station was to blame.

A spokesman for the primary care trust said: "Health advisors note Stop Hinkley campaigners renewed assertion that mortality statistics for breast cancer in the Burnham North ward over the last 10 years appear to be higher than the national average.

"Such statistical anomalies are known to occur and also occur in other parts of Somerset , which are nowhere near Hinkley Point.

"It therefore would be misleading to suggest that published statistics indicate an increased risk to health for residents living in the Burnham area."

A spokesman for British Energy said: "We work to very strict limits set by independent authorities.

"We would want to reassure people that people are exposed to radiation from a number of sources and that nuclear power accounts for one per cent."

Research in 2001 by Dr Busby into a possible cancer cluster in Burnham also sparked furious debate.


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