Nuclear dump off Alderney

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The Independent Online

Seventeen thousand tons of nuclear waste have been discovered two miles west of the Channel island of Alderney and the international atomic energy authority in Vienna has confirmed that the British Government dumped the waste in concrete containers between 1950 and 1963.

The leader of Alderney's fishing fleet, Pierre Dupont, said he was disgusted that the British dumped nuclear waste so close to the island. The waste lies between 65 and 165 metres below the surface. Legislation in 1975 restricted dumping to areas below 4,000 metres, and dumping nuclear waste at sea was banned by the 1983 Paris convention. Mr Dupont doubted there was much that could be done. "It's very awkward once it's there to get something done about it. At the time it was an easy solution."

Shellfish caught by Alderney fishermen are regularly checked for radioactivity. This is routine because Alderney lies eight miles from the nuclear reprocessing facility at Cap de la Hague on the French mainland.

Alderney politician John Russell said that there has been no indication of contamination. "The island is certainly not aware of this consignment of nuclear waste. We must deal with this issue with great caution. We will be contacting the British Government to try and establish exactly what is down there."

Senior Guernsey politician Conseiller, Jean Pritchard, said she wants the British Government to remove the waste. "I want to see a report from the British Government. I want to know what is there, why it was put there and whether they bothered to consult us. I also want them to do something about taking it back."

Mr Russell said there is a possibility that the containers held low-level nuclear waste, but he said it would be possible for a survey of the area to be done if no records exist.

The European environment commission has been informed and is expected to investigate.