Radiation in UK exceeds US

Cancer victim sparks claims of alarming figures for radiation doses in dockyard

The UK Government may have subjected civilian nuclear submarine workers to radiation doses eight times higher than their US colleagues.

The alarming figure arises from research commissioned by Rochester City Council, which covers the former nuclear dockyard at Chatham in Kent.

John Large, the consultant engaged by the council, said it was impossible to give a definitive verdict because of the Ministry of Defence’s claim that it was impractical to provide aggregate dose records before 1979.

Large said that at that time average UK doses were about four times higher than in the US. But a sample of about 70 individual and group doses he had collected from earlier years suggested the difference had been considerably greater.

`All I am prepared to say is that up to 1979, the doses in the British yards seem to be about eight times higher than their US counterparts.’

Rochester began a campaign for the MoD to make a full disclosure of doses after Tim Robson, a councillor who had worked at Chatham, died of cancer two years ago. Robson had received a dose of more than 50 millisieverts – the legal annual limit for radiation workers in the UK – over the course of a three-week job on a submarine.

In response to the campaign, the MoD will announce a scheme on 12 May to make the radiation dose records of all 66,000 past and present civilian nuclear workers – about 12,000 of whom would have worked on submarines – available on request.

By Andrew Cavenagh