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Wednesday, February 11, 1998 Published at 16:58 GMT



UK

Sellafield radioactive pigeon scare
image: [ BNFL's nuclear reprocessing site at Sellafield in Cumbria ]
BNFL's nuclear reprocessing site at Sellafield in Cumbria

An investigation has been launched at British Nuclear Fuels after more than 150 pigeons living near to its reprocessing plant in Sellafield were found to be radioactive.

The alert started when an RSPCA inspector was called in to cull some birds at a pigeon sanctuary in Seascale and decided to send some off for analysis at BNFL.

Twin sisters Jane and Barrie Robinson cared for a flock of around 700 birds at their Singing Surf sanctuary.


[ image: A flock of pigeons]
A flock of pigeons
The inspector was responding to complaints about the pigeons being a health hazard by the local community and rumours that they could be radioactive as a result of roosting at Sellafield.

A BNFL spokeswoman confirmed they had tested around 150 of the dead birds and found significant levels of radiation.

Scientists have also tested the Robinsons' sanctuary and low levels of radioactivity were also discovered in their entrance porch.

She added: "I cannot reveal the exact level because further tests are being carried out but they are low.

"The inspector has been assured that his health is not in danger as a result of coming into contact with the pigeons.

"We are now trying to find out exactly how the birds became radioactive, whether it was something they picked up on their feathers from dust in the rafters for example or as a result of something they have eaten.

"Obviously we are treating the incident seriously but no above normal radiation has been detected on the clothing of the ladies at the sanctuary and further tests are being carried out in the porch."

A professional contractor employed by BNFL to keep the bird population at Sellafield under control has also been employed to cull a further 300 birds from the Robinson's flock which will also be tested.


[ image: Seascale is near Sellafield]
Seascale is near Sellafield
The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is carrying out its own independent tests.

A spokeswoman for the RSPCA said they would be advising all their inspectors to wear protective gloves when handling wild birds in the area as a precaution.

The Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment campaign said they were worried that contaminated pigeons could pose a risk to local people.

Janine Allis-Smith, campaign co-ordinator said: "We are obviously concerned that pigeons could be flying around with particles of radioactive dust on their wings which could fall on people and be inhaled.

"Everything in that area has the stamp of Sellafield on it."
 





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