HC Deb 01 February 1999 vol 324 cc440-1W
Ms Roseanna Cunningham

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland, pursuant to his answer of 14 January 1999,Official Report, columns 233–34, on Dounreay what assessment he has made of the health dangers which could result from exposure of bait collectors to fuel fragments. [68139]

Mr. Galbraith

This matter was considered in the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) Report "Fragments of Irradiated Nuclear Fuel in the Dounreay Local Environment", which was referred to in the Answer of 14 January. That report took account of advice from the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) which, in turn, was informed by work carried out by the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (COMARE).

The advice in the SEPA report was that the fuel fragments were not likely to affect the health of members of the public unless there was direct skin contact with, or accidental ingestion of, a fragment.

The effect of contact or ingestion would depend on the nature and length of contact with, and the activity of, the fragment. In the event of accidental contact with a fragment the effect could be some blistering of the skin and possible infection, unless the contact was prolonged. The effect of ingestion would depend on the activity of the fragment and whether it passed through the body or lodged in the gut. The immediate effects could range from no detectable effect to severe gastro-intestinal illness. In the longer term, the risks of developing a cancer could be marginally increased. The annual probability of bait collectors within the intertidal zone at Sandside beach making skin contact with a fragment was estimated at 1 in 200,000 in the SEPA report. There have been no known cases of bait collectors or any other member of the public coming into contact with particles.

From 1 July 1999 this will be a matter for the Scottish Parliament.

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