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NUCLEAR CANCER SHOCKER; Plutonium risk 10 times higher than first feared.

Byline: LISA O'CONNOR

A SECRET British Government report has revealed the cancer risk from plutonium pollution is TEN times higher than previously feared.

The low-level radioactive emissions from the UK's nuclear processing plant Sellafield - so long dismissed as "harmless" - may in fact be dangerously high.

The findings, which will shock anti-nuclear campaigners, are contained in a confidential report for the British Government which was leaked to respected mag New Scientist last week.

Sellafield - less than 80 miles from Ireland's east coast - is Britain's main source of plutonium and now poses an even greater risk to us.

The bombshell report reveals:

The cancer risk from exposure inside the body could be 10 times higher than is allowed for in calculating international safety limits.

The experts are unanimous in saying that low-level radiation emitted by plutonium may cause more damage to human cells than previously believed.

Their opinion could provoke a rethink of the guidelines on exposure to radiation.

Several tonnes of plutonium have been released into the environment over the past 60 years by nuclear weapons tests, nuclear power plants and Sellafield.

Concern over the danger of plutonium is growing because of discoveries about the subtle effects of low-level radiation.

Researchers in Europe and North America have shown that the descendants of cells that seem to survive radiation unharmed can suffer delayed damage.

Cells adjacent to those that are irradiated can also sustain damage, known as "the bystander effect".

Scientists fear these effects could trigger cancers and other ill effects.

The report, which is due to be published in the next few months, has been drawn up by the Committee Examining Radiation Risks from Internal Emitters (CERRIE).

The committee includes 12 specialists from the UK Government's National Radiological Protection Board, the nuclear industry, universities and environmental groups.

All members of the committee agree that the margin of uncertainty over the risks of plutonium "could extend over at least an order of magnitude".

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SELLAFIELD: nuclear processing plant
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 18, 2004
Words:327
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