Food grown in Sizewell area to be studied for radiation

Sizewell A and B

Sizewell A and B - Credit: Archant

A study is to be carried out around the Sizewell nuclear power stations site to investigate whether people eating food produced in the area or spending time there are vulnerable to radioactivity.

The last time a similar investigation was carried out was five years ago and those behind the project are keen to see if people’s diets and activities have changed and the subsequent impact.

Fieldwork for the Habits Survey will be carried out between June 9 and June 19 with the results published next year.

It will be carried out by scientists from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), the Environment Agency and the Office for Nuclear Regulation.

They will assess the amount of locally-produced food that is consumed, the amount of time spent undertaking activities in coastal areas, and the time spent within one kilometre of the Sizewell site.

In addition to background radiation present in the environment, people living, working or spending time near nuclear power sites are exposed to low-level discharges in the atmosphere and the sea.

It could also affect crops growing in nearby fields, fish or shellfish harvested from the North Sea, and in food products made from animals grazing in the area.

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A letter from the Food Standards Agency to be presented to the Sizewell A and B Stakeholder Group next week said: “The survey will identify locally produced foods eaten by members of the public living near to the site, and investigate harvesting and consumption patterns.

“The survey will also quantify the occupancy of the public affected by direct radiation and directly by discharges from the site.”

Cefas said all personal data given in the surveys would be confidential and used solely to calculate the level of radiation that members of the public are exposed to.

It said: “Recent data have shown that public levels of exposure to authorised radioactive discharges at all licensed nuclear sites in the United Kingdom are well below the internationally agreed limit, which is currently 1mSv (millisievert) per year.”

Five years ago data was collected from 649 people, including commercial and hobby fishermen, anglers, farmers, allotment holders, gardeners and beekeepers, because their habits and where they live could cause them to be exposed to radioactivity from the site.