Author Archives: nuclearhistory

Windscale/Sellefield Pt. 6. Research for a book length study

I am now searching for the full text of Comare report number 1 of 1986. Two years after the Black report and the TV program which highlighted the leukemia cluster around Sellafield (1984). These occurred prior to Chernobyl.

In my search I found the following archive record of the government response to the first comare report: which if you scroll down the page records this:

Report on leak at Windscale: policy towards Sellafield; environmental pollution; report on incidence of cancer in west Cumbria; report of the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment; part 1
Catalogue reference: PREM 19/1741
Date range: 28 July 1980 – 22 July 1986

Patrick Jenkin suggests a ‘Sellafield dimension’ to Government policies where financial compensation would be given to areas near nuclear plants, such as the Workington Enterprise Zone. This is rejected by David Pascall of the Policy Unit (1 June 1984). The Black Report published in July 1984 causes concern as it looks at leukaemia among young people in Seascale, near Sellafield (17 July 1984). Correspondence between Thatcher and the Taoiseach, Garret Fitzgerald in March 1986 demonstrates Irish concerns over the safety of Sellafield. Advisor Michael Addison describes the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (COMARE) report as having come at ‘an unfortunate time, after Chernobyl.” end quote. Source: UK National Archives, Prime Minister’s files (PREM) 1986. No surprises there. Unfortunate given the number of afflicted children, Thatcher you old demented dead devil.



Windscale/Sellefield Pt. 4. Research for a book length study

Abstract of the Black report, 1984. which reads: “Investigation of the possible increased incidence of cancer in West Cumbria
Black, D. 1984. OHMS
. The Group’s task was: a) to establish cancer incidence in the area adjacent to Sellafield, and compare it with cancer incidence in other areas in the U.K. and Cumbria; b) to consider the available data on radiation exposure in the area adjacent to Sellafield and the evidence relating radiation exposure to cancer; c) to assess other possible significant factors. Taking West Cumbria as a whole, mortality from childhood cancer is near the national average, particularly for cancers other than leukaemia, but not excluding local pockets of high incidence. In the Northern Children’s Cancer Registry region, containing 765 wards, Seascale had the third highest ‘Lymphoid malignancy’ rate during 1968-82 in children under 15 in one study (entirely due to leukaemia incidence increase). Millom Rural District (including Seascale) had the second highest rate among 152 comparably sized districts in England and Wales, ranked according to leukaemia mortality among under 25s during 1968-78. Mortality rates for other diseases in the local population, (children or adults), are not unusual. The overall mortality rate for the under 25s in Millom District is within normal limits. Recommendations are made mainly for further epidemiological studies, but also for studies of health implication of radioactive discharges, and for regulatory mechanisms. (U.K.) end quote.

still looking for full text of the paper.

Windscale/Sellefield Pt. 3 Research for a book length study

Sources relating to the Black Report of 1984.


BBC on this day 23 July 1984

A government report into cancer levels near the controversial nuclear plant at Sellafield in Cumbria has confirmed suspicions of higher-than-normal levels of leukaemia in the area.
However, it says, too little research has been done to definitely link the high levels of the disease to the nuclear plant itself.

The report was commissioned to address concerns following a television documentary last year which suggested there was a cluster of cancer cases in the area around Sellafield.

‘Qualified reassurance’

The investigators, led by Sir Douglas Black, found two of Britain’s three highest death rates from leukaemia in areas around the plant.

But Sir Douglas called for much more detailed studies to find out if the deaths were linked to Sellafield.

“We can give a qualified reassurance to people about possible health hazards in the neighbourhood of Sellafield,” he said. “However, there are uncertainties concerning the operation of the plant.”

He said the theory that the plant was a factor in the high rate of leukaemia could not be categorically dismissed, but nor was it easy to prove.

The report suggests control over permitted discharges at Sellafield could be tightened, and also says medical records about cancer deaths should be more accurate.

It also says there could be genetic risks associated with exposure to low levels of radiation.


The report made 10 main recommendations, all of which have been accepted by the government.

It suggested two main investigations: into cases of leukaemia and lymphoma diagnosed in people under 25 living in west Cumbria, and into the records of all children born since 1950 to mothers who lived at Seascale, where Sellafield is based.

Children are thought to receive the greatest doses of discharges from the plant through shore sand, inhaling it as tiny particles, or eating contaminated fish and shellfish.

British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL), which runs Sellafield, has welcomed the findings.

Sellafield has had a controversial history ever since it was opened in 1956 as Windscale.

A fire broke out in a chimney the following year, spreading radioactivity across the Cumbrian countryside. It remains Britain’s most serious nuclear accident.

The plant was renamed Sellafield in 1981 when it was taken over by BNFL.

Last year another accident closed a 30-mile stretch of coastline either side of the plant due to radioactive contamination.
In Context
The Black report led to a flurry of investigations into the incidence of cancer clusters around the Sellafield nuclear plant.
The most controversial was published in 1990 by Professor Martin Gardner, and found that fathers who worked at Sellafield passed on an increased risk of leukaemia to their children.

The Gardner report led to a High Court test case brought in 1992 by two Sellafield workers. They lost their claim for compensation against BNFL.

Two government reports, published in 1997 and 1999, failed to support Gardner’s findings.

Other reports, however, most notably by the North of England Children’s Cancer Research Fund in 2002, have found evidence to support Gardner’s conclusions.

A television documentary in 2004 also suggested evidence of a further cancer cluster in North Wales, along the coast facing the Sellafield plant across the Irish Sea.

However, BNFL and the government continue to assert that there is no evidence to support a link between leukaemia and nuclear power plants.

The Sellafield nuclear complex was closed and handed over for decommissioning in April 2005. The process is expected to take about 100 years to complete.

End quote.

Windscale/Sellefield Pt. 1 Research for a book length study

I am going to plan a book length piece on the Sellerfield Leukemia Controversy. Planning it is one thing, taking 2 years to research and write it is another. 2 major theses: 1. background radiation alone in UK and elsewhere causing a proportion of the disease. Therefore adding to background increases disease. 2. Government and industry research is replete with self serving statements and assumptions in this matter.

Paper No. 1.

Variations in the concentration of Pu, Sr-90 and total alpha-emitters in human teeth collected within the British Isles

Variations in the concentration of plutonium, strontium-90 and total alpha-emitters in human teeth collected within the British Isles

R.G.O’Donnell P.I.Mitchell N.D.Priest L.Strange A.Fox.L.Henshaw S.C.Long

Science of The Total Environment
Volume 201, Issue 3, 18 August 1997, Pages 235-243

quote “Abstract

Concentrations of plutonium-239, plutonium-240, strontium-90 and total α-emitters have been measured in children’s teeth collected throughout Great Britain and Ireland. The concentrations of plutonium and strontium-90 were measured in batched samples, each containing approximately 50 teeth, using low-background radiochemical methods. The concentrations of total α-emitters were determined in single teeth using α-sensitive plastic track detectors. The results showed that the average concentrations of total α-emitters and strontium-90 were approximately one to three orders of magnitude greater than the equivalent concentrations of plutonium-239, 240. Regression analyses indicated that the concentrations of plutonium, but not strontium-90 or total α-emitters, decreased with increasing distance from the Sellafield nuclear fuel reprocessing plant — suggesting that this plant is a source of plutonium contamination in the wider population of the British Isles. Nevertheless, the measured absolute concentrations of plutonium (mean = 5 ± 4 mBq kg−1 ash wt.) were so low that they are considered to present an insignificant radiological hazard.” end quote. emphasis added.

For the organism, it is the total dose which counts as far as biological effects and induction of diseases are concerned. Total dose is the sum of all dose contributors.

Further, comparison involves a subtraction of one thing from one or more other things in order to highlight proportion.

The bio-medical language in the abstract quoted above is laden with legal defensiveness which is totally inappropriate when considering the fate of an exposed cell, tissue and organism.

Given that the above paper finds that “concentrations of plutonium, but not strontium-90 or total α-emitters, decreased with increasing distance from the Sellafield nuclear fuel reprocessing plant — suggesting that this plant is a source of plutonium contamination in the wider population of the British Isles.”, what evidence, if any, exists which supports the idea that the closer one resides to Sellafield nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, the greater the risk of radiogenic disease ?

I refer to the film “A Hard Rain”, Frontline Films, by David Bradbury ( Some years ago Mr. Bradbury granted me permission to transcribe portions of the flim dialogue, and to publish these portions of dialogue on one of my blogs. What follows is a portion of an interview between David Bradbury and Prof Eric Wright, a leukemia expert, at the time located at the University of Dundee, Scotland:

“Flim timing mark 46 miutes 38 seconds.

“Professor Eric Wright, University of Dundee:
“A number of groups, including those associated with Chris Busby, have suggested that there may be increased frequencies, or increased incidences, of diseases associated with nuclear power plants or similar sorts of institutions. When they have been rigorously analised by epidemiologists, the people who actually do these sorts of calculations, then to date, Chris Busby’s data has not stood up to critical evaluation. It’s sort of tempting to see a community around a huge nuclear power plant that has an excess of childhood, which indeed it does. I don’t think anyone os going to disagree with the basic observation that there has been quite a long standing increased incidence of childhood leukemia in that particular geographical region. I think it’s quite tempting to say “A Ha, it must be something to do with the nuclear power plant. However, to date, I think, the evidence from risk factors have tended to suggest, well, that probably isn’t the explanation…” (Source: “A Hard Rain”, Frontline Films, David Bradbury, used with permission.) Origianl Link:

Prof Wright states that there is, or was, an excess of childhood leukemia close in to Sellafield. And we have seen that nuclear industry emissions – Plutonium – increase in concentration in human tissue as one moves closer to Sellafield.

There is no doubt that Pu contamination in children close in to Sellafield is higher than Pu contamination in children more distant from Sellafield. (O’Donnell et al) and that the Sellafield leukemia cluster adjacent to Sellafield exists or existed (Wright via Bradbury).

But both Wright and O’Donnell et al maintain that Sellafield emissions are not responsible for human disease.

For a lay person such as myself, the two facts of increased concentrate of tissue resident Pu due to decreasing distance from Sellafield and the acknowledged existence of a long term excess of childhood leukemia adjacent to Sellafield produces a logical expectation that, even given the low additional doses involved, Sellafield emissions of radionuclides could produce the observed increased rate of disease in populations close in to the facility.

The fact that Sellafield is now bankrupt and in clean up mode is a good thing. A shining example of what needs to happen to all such facilities, in my opinion.

Moving forward, O’Donnell et al state that the dose contributions of Sr90 and Pu from nuclear industry found in the tissues of the British population is “an insignificant radiological hazard.” (O’donnell et al, see above).

Natural background exposure to both internal and external radiation is not “insignificant”. This is my view.

Although ARPANSA disagrees, natural background radiation in uncontaminated areas has been linked to increased risk of childhood leukemia: “Our results provide further support to the notion that low doses of ionizing radiation increase the risk for childhood leukemia, particularly at age 2-7 years. Our findings suggest a larger effect of radiation on leukemia with high hyperpdiploidy than other subgroups, but this result requires further confirmation.” (Source: Background radiation and childhood leukemia: A nationwide register-based case-control study.
Article in International Journal of Cancer 139(9) · July 2016, Atte Nikkilä University of Tampere Sini Erme Hannu Arvela Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, STUK, Helsinki, Finland Olli Holmgren.

If natural background radiation alone (in areas not defined as Naturally High Background Radiation Areas (NHBRA)- where the risk of cancer induction of at least 5 times is amplified, not diminished as claimed by some in the nuclear industry) is a cause of childhood leukemia, as reported by researchers such as those cited above, I have a question:

On what basis does the British and World nuclear industry claim that Sellafield’s emissions have not caused and do not cause disease?

That is the claim and I cannot believe that claim. There is no rational path for me to attain such a level of blind faith.