Cow mountain is safe to burn in power stations

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The Independent Online
Mountains of powder from the rendered carcasses of cattle with "mad-cow" disease (BSE) can safely be burnt in power-stations, the Environment Agency decided. The risk to the public would be small, about a tenth of that of being hit by lightning in any one year, which is estimated at 1 in 10 million.

Disposing of the remains, 225,000 tonnes of rendered meat and bone meal and 115,000 tonnes of tallow, or fat, would take 200 days in a standard 500-megawatt power-station, said David Slater, the agency's director of environmental protection. He is considering seven applications from companies that want to burn the waste products of cattle slaughtered in the over- 30 months scheme introduced in May 1996. So far 850,000 cattle have been killed and rendered. The remains are being stored in warehouses and are increasing by 2,000 tonnes a week. The agency also decided there is no risk to public health from landfill sites containing carcasses of cows infected with BSE. There are 6,117 such carcasses in 59 sites across Britain, as disclosed by the Independent in April.

However, disposing of the remains in landfill sites is prohibited under new European rules. Disposal through power- stations is the only feasible alternative. It would be burnt at 1,450C, hot enough to destroy any infectious protein in the mix, Mr Slater said. "The risk would be about the same as smoking a millionth of one cigarette in your lifetime."

Operators would have to alter existing stations, or build new ones, to cope with the waste: it could not simply be added to fuels now used. But it would have about the same calorific value as coal.

Also, it would be free: the Intervention Board, the arm of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food which owns the waste, says it would probably not charge for it.