London Letter: Fuel for thought

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The Independent Online
It is disappointing that a newspaper with a title such as yours should publish a blatant anti-nuclear article as that penned by Mary Flanagan (Opinion, 31 August).

Your readers should know that the transport of spent fuel (not nuclear waste) is treated by British Rail in just the same way as any other hazardous cargo. It has been carried out for more than 30 years, covering almost 16 million flask miles, without a single incident that has resulted in a release of radioactivity to the environment. This comes from careful planning and complying with the most stringent of regulations set by international scientific bodies.

Mary Flanagan is wrong to assume that the radiation received by people living and working close to railway tracks has not been computed. There are independent checks on dose uptake to workers and the public for all modes of transport. This is carried out by the National Radiological Protection Board on behalf of the Department of Transport and shows conclusively that dose uptake is insignificant. These reports are available to the public.

Finally, and perhaps most important, no-one would come to any harm if the protection provided by the flask was somehow breached, which would be extremely unlikely because they are vessels weighing up to 100 tonnes lined with 14 inches of lead and steel shielding. In such a case the most conceivable scenario would involve a release of mildly contaminated water which would be cleaned up using detergents and water.

C Loughlin Director, BNFL Transport Division

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