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Sunday, 3 May, 1998, 01:45 GMT 02:45 UK
Alps suffering from Chernobyl fallout claim
The explosion at Chernobyl 12 years ago sent out a deadly cloud of radiation across Europe
An independent laboratory says the Alps are still contaminated with fall-out from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster 12 years ago.

A skier enjoying the Alps
The independent scientists want a warning given to people who use some areas of the Alps
The Centre for Research and Independent Information on Radioactivity (CRII-RAD) says in places the levels of radiation exceeds safety limits.

Scientists based their conclusions on tests on soil samples from the French, Italian, Swiss and Austrian Alps.

Bruno Chareyron, a senior scientist at the centre, said: "We found soil that is so contaminated with radioactive cesium that it's possible to call it radioactive waste."

Claims disputed

But the official French radioactivity watchdog has disputed the study, saying that regular surveys have produced no evidence of a health hazard.

Jean-Francois Lacronique, of the Office of Protection against Ionising Rays (OPRI), said: "We are categorical. There is no danger whatsoever."

Researchers from CRII-RAD studied the Alpine range during summer and autumn in 1996 and 1997.

They believe campers, shepherds, park wardens, hikers and even mushroom-lovers should be warned about high radiation levels in certain areas. They are also calling for wide-ranging health and environmental surveys to be carried out.

Their findings will be submitted to the French Environment Ministry on Monday.

Mr Chareyron said: "Given the huge area involved, this is a colossal work which we do not have the means to do."

The commission is based in a small laboratory in the southern French town of Valence and employing 20 people.

Deadly legacy

The explosion of the fourth reactor at the Chernobyl power plant in 1986 was the world's worst civilian nuclear disaster.

The immediate blast killed at least 32 people and sent a deadly cloud of radiation across large sections of the former Soviet Union and Europe.

See also:

03 Apr 98 | Europe
Chernobyl II feared
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