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Last Updated:  Monday, 3 March, 2003, 02:13 GMT
UK farms still radioactive
The legacy of Chernobyl lives on
Hundreds of farms are still contaminated with radioactive material from Chernobyl 17 years after the world's worst nuclear power disaster, the BBC has learned.

Almost 400 sheep farms in England, Wales and Scotland are still affected, according to the latest figures seen by BBC Radio Five Live.

Strict government monitoring of farmland and livestock continues to show higher than accepted levels of caesium.

It is not suggested contaminated meat is reaching the human food supply.

But the monitoring programme and compensation payments to farmers have cost UK taxpayers 13m so far.

No timescale

Officials say it is almost impossible to say when the restrictions, in place since the Chernobyl disaster of April 1986, will finally be lifted across Britain.

In the restricted areas, the sheep are monitored regularly and before they can be sold have to spend time off the hills.

Upland farms in the UK were caught out by an unfortunate set of circumstances following the disaster.

Heavy rain followed the explosion washing radioactive decay products - mostly caesium 137 - out of clouds and onto fields.

Because of the nature of the soil in certain areas the radioactive particles, instead of getting locked up in the soil, were absorbed by plants.

And the sheep grazing the land ate radioactive grass.

Chernobyl finally to shut down
15 Dec 00 |  Europe
Doubts over Chernobyl's closure
05 Dec 00 |  Europe
Chernobyl radiation makes wheat mutate
04 Oct 00 |  Science/Nature

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