Huntingdon: Action group claims nuclear Waste threat to water supply

AN environmental group is claiming that Huntingdonshire s water supply could be polluted by waste from nuclear power stations if it is allowed to be dumped at a site 25 miles north of Huntingdon. Friends of the Earth is fighting an experimental proposal

AN environmental group is claiming that Huntingdonshire's water supply could be polluted by waste from nuclear power stations if it is allowed to be dumped at a site 25 miles north of Huntingdon.

Friends of the Earth is fighting an experimental proposal to dump the waste - which would be created by the dismantling of nuclear power stations - in landfill sites rather than specially engineered sites.

In what is believed to be a national first, Augean, the company which runs the King's Cliffe landfill site between Corby and Peterborough has applied to take debris from dismantled nuclear power stations.

Friends of the Earth claim the waste could reach the River Nene and Rutland Water - one of the sources of Huntingdonshire's drinking water - although Anglian Water and the Environment Agency have dismissed the claims.

Richard Olive, spokesman for Peterborough Friends of the Earth, told The Hunts Post: "The site operator, Augean, has made an application to bury radioactive wastes from nuclear power stations, which are soon to be demolished. The waste would contain small quantities of radioactive materials, some of which would be alpha emitters, the most dangerous type of radiation. There is no safe level of nuclear radiation."

Mr Olive, a retired architect, said the limestone aquifer (permeable rock) which runs below the King's Cliffe site, carries water to Wittering Brook, which discharges into Thornhaugh Beck and then into the River Nene.

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At Wansford, Anglian Water pumps water from the Nene to Rutland Water.

Augean's planning application to Northamptonshire County Council has brought objections from several quarters.

Nigel North, chairman of planning at Peterborough City Council told The Hunts Post: "The site is on high ground and we are concerned that the waste will leach into the environment. We were worried about the security of the site. We were not happy that we had answers to our questions. It might all be fine and dandy but we had no information to support that. We felt there was a lot of potential danger.

"We were not prepared to take the risk on other people's behalf."

Waste Watch, a campaign group based in King's Cliffe and nearby villages, has written a lengthy submission to the planning authority, opposing the plan. It has collected 3,000 signatures on a petition and is holding a public meeting on Wednesday, March 10 at King's Cliffe Middle School at 7.30pm.

Melanie McCall, spokesman for the Waste Watch group, told The Hunts Post: "We don't think radioactive waste should be in landfill. This area is already high in natural radon gas. This is the first application of its kind and it could set a precedent for the rest of the country. At first there was a little exhibition in the village and we were told it was all lovely and safe. We want an investigation. We have carried out nearly a year of research. We have invited six guest speakers to the meeting and we hope we will get some answers."

A statement from Augean said: "The maximum radiation exposure from these materials represents less than one per cent of the average normal daily exposure to radiation for people living in the UK.

"The landfill site at King's Cliffe is one of the safest places in the country for storing hazardous waste. It is built on clay and has been engineered to the highest environmental, health and safety standards.

"Exhaustive risk assessments have been carried out and conclude that the effect on groundwater, drinking water and human health, even in the event of an accident, pose negligible risk to the environment or human health."

A statement from the Environment Agency said: "Disposing of low level radioactive waste at the Northamptonshire landfill would harm neither people nor the environment.

"Following careful consideration of the application over the last six months, the Environment Agency is now proposing to authorise Augean to accept waste contaminated by low levels of radiation at the East Northants Resource Management Facility (ENRMF) landfill, near Peterborough.

"The hazardous waste landfill site has been designed and engineered to meet stringent standards. Like other landfills, the site is closely monitored by the Environment Agency to ensure it complies with the conditions of its operating permits. A final decision has yet to be made, and people living and working in the area around the site are being invited to give their views on the proposed decision."

An Anglian Water spokesman added: "The Environment Agency, as lead body overseeing such matters as water resources, waste and pollution, has assured us that the proposals regarding King's Cliffe waste disposal site will not affect people and the environment, either now or in the future. In maintaining our precautionary approach when it comes to issues surrounding water quality, we will continue to work closely with them to understand and assess the details of this proposal and to reassure that water quality would not be adversely affected."

A spokesman for Northamptonshire County Council said the consultation period had closed but comments would still be accepted up until the meeting of the council's development control committee on March 16.