HC Deb 27 July 1989 vol 157 cc958-9W
Mr. Frank Cook

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the total quantity of radioactivity in the soil, food chains and water systems in the United Kingdom attributable to(a) fallout from Chernobyl (b) United Kingdom military nuclear bases and (c) the United Kingdom civil nuclear facilities, and what steps he is taking to clean up the United Kingdom environment from radioactive pollution arising from human activities.

Mr. Maclean

My Department has responsibilities for the food chain and the aquatic environment. The Department of the Environment has responsibilities for the soil and drinking water.

It is not possible easily to assess separately the contribution of background activity and that attributable to other sources. However, the general overall picture is as follows:

  1. (a) The contribution from the 1986 Chernobyl accident was greatest in the north and west of the country where high rainfall coincided with the passage of the radioactive plume with a result that total radiocaesium levels in the soil from all sources were in the region of 30,000Bq/m2 in parts of Cumbria.
  2. (b) (c) UK military and civil nuclear facilities have made a negligible contribution to radio activity levels in the soil with the exception of the 1957 fire at Windscale which led to a significant increase in levels in Cumbria.

Details of radioactivity levels in the food chain and in surface and coastal waters around major nuclear installations can be found in my Department's terrestrial radioactivity monitoring programme and aquatic monitoring reports (copies in the Library of the House). The results of my Department's monitoring of foodstuffs following the Chernobyl accident have also been published regularly and copies placed in the library of the House.

With the exception of certain areas of the United Kingdom where sheep are still subject to post-Chernobyl movement and slaughter controls, radioactivity levels in the food chain throughout the United Kingdom do not require any remedial action. In the areas where sheep are under control my Department is actively investigating ways of reducing radiocaesium availability and uptake by grazing animals.

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