The beginning of the nuclear chain in the UK is at Springfields near Preston. Uranium is ripped out of the ground in far off lands such as Africa, Peru, and even the Grand Canyon. The uranium is brought here by road and rail for Springfields to work their magic The emissions from the birthing of uranium fuel is pumped to the River Ribble, to Clifton Marsh landfill and to the air. The Springfields site boasts that it has “already produced several million fuel elements and provided products and services for over 140 reactors in more than 12 countries”.
This activity is set to explode with new build. The operators of Springfields (Toshiba and Westinghouse) have signed a 150 year lease with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. The industry and our nuclear headed government must be laughing their socks off at the lack of attention being directed to the first plant in the world to make nuclear fuel. This has not always been the case. In the 1990’s Friends of the Earth were actively anti nuclear and prompted by concerned residents exposed the ongoing routine radioactive and chemical emissions. Now in our hour of extreme need, environmental groups Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace are soft pedalling when they should be hurling STOP NUKE banners from the top of Blackpool Tower and setting up blockades to prevent uranium arriving in Preston from Peru’s Tropical Icecap. What happened to Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace UK?
Operators of Springfields
The following is part of an archive of material Radiation Free Lakeland has been given access to.
Appearing online for the first time.
Lancashire Evening Post
Monday November 18th 1991
Shock report on river pollution from A-plant
Image: The BNFL plant at Springfields: Call for an in-depth investigation
CHILDREN AT RISK?
By John Lawrence
Children playing on the banks of the River Ribble could be risking radioactive contamination from a nearby nuclear plant.
Image: Local resident Paul Brown at the River Ribble…his concerns led to the Granada investigation
A report by the pressure group Friends of the Earth claims youngsters playing along the river in the Penwortham area near Preston could be receiving large doses of radiation from mudflats contaminated by discharges from the British Nuclear Fuels Springfields plant, it was revealed today.
Lancashire County Council leader Louise Ellman immediately called for an in-depth investigation from the independent radiation monitoring group Radmil.
Frightened residents living within yards of the River Ribble today said they feared for their health.
The worried locals called for a wide ranging investigation into the damning report.
The shock survey coincides with a hard hitting Granada TV investigation due to be screened tonight into radiation safety standards at the sprawling Salwick site, which features ex worker Joe McMaster, 69 formerly of Greystock Avenue, Fulwood, Preston and his wife Stella.
Mr McMaster, who worked for 31 years as an analytical chemist, claims that three of his daughters died between 1958 and 1987 from illnesses linked to fatal doses of radiation.
Friends of the Earth today said tests carried out on the stretch of the Ribble through Preston revealed pollution levels higher than those published by BNFL and the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food.
Researchers monitored radiation levels at four points upstream of the Springfields discharge pipe – the cadet hut at Penwortham bridge, Broadgate, Lower Penwortham park and the mainline railway bridge.
Doses of radioactive thorium particles were found to be up to six times higher than normal.
Radiation campaigner Dr Patrick Green said the muddy river bed and bank were popular with children, especially at low tide during the summer months when the mud dried out.
The report says a child would have to spend on average around 80 minutes a day over a year on the river bank to receive the maximum tolerable radiation dose of 100 units.
BNFL information officer Peter Osborne said the pressure group’s findings did not stand up to close scrutiny and denied that youngsters were in danger.
Mr Osborne said: “Any doses that children would be receiving from playing in those areas would only be one per cent of any radiation that could be regarded as remotely dangerous. To be honest, the Ribble is a pretty inhospitable play area for other reasons and not many children play there anyway.”
A MAFF spokesman said government scientists always carried out tests in areas that would provide the highest doses and published their results on a regular basis. Local residents said if the alleged nuclear waste dumping was true it should be stopped immediately. Mrs Susan Hunter of Riverside Road said: “If its true, it is absolutely outrageous and everyone round here will naturally be very concerned.”
Graham Hunter of Stonefield, Penwortham, said BNFL had to “clean up their act” if the Friends of the Earth report was true.
A-Plant bosses insist radiation within safety limits
Profit put before safety say nuclear campaigners
By John Lawrence
AN ENVIRONMENT pressure group today issued what they claim is a damning report which accuses Lancashire nuclear bosses of putting profits before safety.
Friends of the Earth claim they have new evidence which shows that radioactive discharges from the British Nuclear Fuels Springfields plant, at Salwick, near Preston, have extensively contaminated the banks of the River Ribble.
The group says tests carried out seven kilometres upstream from the Springfields discharge pipe reveal that the section of the Ribble passing through Preston is particularly badly hit.
BNFL management today moved to deny the findings of the report and said they would carry out checks on the data.
The campaign group claims that tests carried out on the Ribble by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Pollution and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) are not comprehensive.
Friends of the Earth is calling for a full study into radioactive pollution along the river along with tighter restrictions on discharges after tests at Penwortham Bridge, Broadgate, Lower Penwortham Park and the Ribble railway bridge revealed more beta-emitting particles than any other UK site.
Dr Patrick Green Friends of the Earth radiation campaigner said: “BNFL’s profits before safety policy is putting people at risk. The Government must not allow BNFL to operate this plant until the necessary technology has been installed to reduce the radioactive discharges.”
BNFL information officer Peter Osborne said discharges were closely monitored by independent bodies and had always been well within set limits.
Mr Osborne said: “Friends of the Earth are in the business of trying to shut down the nuclear industry but they havn’t done us the courtesy of sending us a copy of their report. The most important thing to remember is that the health effects of our discharges are insignificant and so is the environmental impact. This has been verified by independent monitoring groups like Radmil.”
BNFL has already rejected findings on radioactive pollution from Springfields expected to be revealed tonight in a Granada TV Open Eye programme.
IS THERE A COVER-UP?
Peter Richardson previews tonight’s shock TV investigation
Tonight’s Open Eye programme is bound to refuel the nuclear industry controversy in Lancashire.
And with good reason – evidence of radioactivity in a Penwortham Park in which children play and men and women walk their dogs, makes grim watching.
Significant perhaps is the revelation that low level radioactive waste dumping took place in the 1950’s and 1960’s at Birkacre near Chorley and at Whittle Hill Quarry, Whittle-le-Woods.
Despite much vaunted public tours around Sellafield, is it still the case that there is much the nuclear authorities would prefer the public not to know about their industry?
Saddest of all, however is the interview with tragic couple Joe and Stella McMaster whose three daughters have died at the ages of ages of 37, 18 and just three days. Springfields’ record is defended throughout the programme by assistant director Mr Mike Simpson.
He maintains: “The discharges from this site have a negligible effect on health.”
But the programme challenges that view in a way that is bound to whip up controversy.