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low-dose ionising radiation – how safe is it?

People have always been exposed to ionising radiation, and more so in modern life thanks to its uses in medicine, industry and the military. The health risks from medium- and high-level radiation are relatively well-understood, but the risks at low levels are debated, and mixed messages about safety from different sources are confusing for both the public and for policy makers. read more

Childhood cancer incidence around Dounreay and Sellafield

Childhood leukaemia is rare, affecting approximately 500 children every year in the UK. There have been numerous studies and reports on the possible risks of childhood leukaemia in the vicinity of nuclear installations and there are acknowledged historical clusters of childhood leukaemia around both Sellafield and Dounreay nuclear sites. Recent reports of raised thyroid cancer incidence following reactor accidents in other countries have led to increased interest in the possible consequences of the 1957 Windscale fire. The Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (COMARE) is publishing its 17th report, ‘Further consideration of the incidence of cancers around the nuclear installations at Sellafield and Dounreay’ – a comprehensive review of the incidence of leukaemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) and other cancers among young people around the Sellafield and Dounreay nuclear installations, updating its previous work. COMARE is a Department of Health Expert Committee providing independent advice to all government departments and agencies. read more

nuclear experts react to announcement on Hinkley Point

The board of the French energy firm EDF has approved the funding of a new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset. These comments were issued following that decision but the UK government has subsequently decided to review the project with a decision expected in the autumn. read more

evidence to select committee on CBRN emergencies

In May 2016 the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee conducted an inquiry into Science in emergencies: chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear incidents. The Science Media Centre submitted written evidence and was also called to give oral evidence to the committee.

wildlife populations in the Chernobyl exclusion zone

The first large scale study of mammal populations in the 4,200 square kilometre human exclusion zone around Chernobyl has been completed by scientists. The zone was exposed to chronic radiation following the 1986 accident; nearly 30 years later, researchers have accurate data on the dual impacts on mammal populations of a radioactive environment and the exclusion of humans. read more

geological disposal of radioactive waste – meet the experts

Every society generating electricity through nuclear power shares the same issue of how to safely manage and permanently dispose of those wastes which remain highly radioactive over a long period of time. Over the past 30 years there has been significant research and analysis across the world on how best to approach and resolve this issue. A common consensus has emerged in science that geological disposal is the safest known way to manage these wastes but the issue remains controversial and recent local government decisions suggest that the public remain unconvinced by reassurances about safety. In the UK, an independent committee of experts, the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM), reviewed the evidence and options and recommended in 2006 that the UK adopt geological disposal. Successive Governments of all Parties have re-affirmed the policy, and a new White Paper was published last summer setting out a revised process for selecting a site for a geological disposal facility (GDF) based on the continuing principle of ‘volunteerism’ – ie a GDF cannot be imposed on a community, but that the community hosting a GDF must be a willing partner. read more

radiotherapy – present and future

Polls show that the public do not recognise radiotherapy as a modern form of cancer therapy, and many would describe it as ‘frightening’. Yet radiotherapy is one of the most effective cancer treatments available, and a staggering array of new developments should allow radiotherapy to become increasingly personalised to individual cancer patients. Major advances, such as Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy (IMRT), proton therapy, Cyberknife technology and research combining radiotherapy with MRI imaging, viral therapy, and chemotherapy, promise to revolutionise radiotherapy in the future. read more

radiation dose from CT scans

The Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (COMARE) published its report investigating the impact of the increased use of CT scans in the UK. read more

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