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Breast cancer fears near Essex N-plant

PUBLISHED: 21:37 19 February 2003 | UPDATED: 16:18 24 February 2010

WOMEN living near Bradwell power station are twice as likely to develop breast cancer than the national average, according to a report out yesterday.

Health officials immediately disputed the study commissioned by campaigners who live near Bradwell.

WOMEN living near Bradwell power station are twice as likely to develop breast cancer than the national average, according to a report out yesterday.

Health officials immediately disputed the study commissioned by campaigners who live near Bradwell.

Two studies by a health authority found there were no detectable increases in cancer around the plant on the River Blackwater and close to the towns of Maldon and Mersea.

But campaigners have accused the Essex Strategic Health Authority of a cover-up.

They asked environmental consultants Green Audit to see if radioactivity in silt coming ashore from the estuary would increase cancer rates.

Dr Chris Busby, from Green Audit, said nationally six women in every 1,000 would develop breast cancer over a five-year period.

Dr Busby, scientific secretary of the European Committee on Radioactive Waste, said that in the Blackwater area 12 in every 1,000 would be diagnosed.

Campaigners claim statistical techniques used by the health authority made figures in one of its reports look better than they were.

Dr Paul Watson, medical director of the authority, said: "The former North Essex Health Authority commissioned the Small Area Health Statistics Unit to carry out a report into the levels of cancer around the power station in 2001.

"A second report using slightly different information collection mechanisms came to a similar conclusion to the first that there was no detectable increased risk of cancer in the vicinity of Bradwell Power Station.

"Both reports were and remain available to the public."

Dr Watson said the results of an independent report looking into the health authority's report and that of Green Audit are shortly to be published.

He added: "And we are confident it will support our view.'

Local campaigner Bobby Teague said: "Isn't it about time the health authorities stopped trying to deny the existence of a problem and started working with other scientists to see what can be done about it, instead of trying to deny it.'

Dr Busby said: "We believe there's a cover up going on.'

Bradwell Power Station shut down last March when it stopped generating electricity, it is currently going through a defuelling process.

Meanwhile, BNFL has been given permission by the Environment Agency to incinerate radioactive oils and solvents at Bradwell – despite opposition from locals.

Objectors living in Mersea were worried about pollution from the incinerator being blown across from Bradwell by the wind.

But yesterday Colin Bennett, of BNFL, said emissions from the incinerator would be less than those made by the power station when it was producing electricity.

Protesters are worried waste from other power stations will be transported to Bradwell, but Mr Bennett said that the incinerator will only be used for Bradwell's waste.

He said BNFL will inform locals when the company intend to start using the incinerator, which could be this summer.

Campaigners have vowed to "pursue all avenues" to stop incineration taking place.

Mrs Teague said: "We are only two miles downwind and this is particularly disturbing for mothers with young children in a seaside resort where people spend most of their time outdoors, on the beach or sailing in the estuary.

"We know there are other options but it has been admitted that incineration is of considerable financial benefit to BNFL."

About 700 Mersea Island residents attended a public meeting last year and voted unanimously against all forms of radioactive incineration.

BNFL withdrew its application to burn solid waste at Bradwell, but not the application to burn radioactive oils and solvents.


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