Thursday, 3 November 2011
Parliamentary Question - Radium Contaminated Land on the Defence Estate
A Parliamentary Question to MOD Ministers provides a good example of how MPs are fobbed off with a standard line such as “the information is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost”.
Delving into the past it becomes clear that this might not in fact be the case and that in 2000 the Radioactive Waste Management Committee (RWMAC) mentioned in their report Advice to Ministers on “The Ministry of Defence's Arrangements for Dealing with Radioactively Contaminated Land” that the “Ministry indicated that it was in the process of developing such a database.”
It would seem that such a database provides a central repository of information requested by the MP.
“26 Oct 2011 : Column 261W
Mr Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence at which locations his Department has records of the burial of radium fragments. 
Mr Robathan: The Ministry of Defence (MOD) takes a proactive approach to the assessment of land quality across the estate and to the management of the risks to human health and the environment. This includes radium 226 associated predominantly with the historical maintenance and disposal of luminised instruments especially during and after the second world war and which are present to some degree at many current and former MOD sites.
Where radium-226 contamination has been identified the potential risks are managed at site level. Such contamination on MOD sites is present in a relatively non-mobile form, with there being little to no leaching to soils and limited solubility in groundwater. As such, it is believed that radium and for that matter radiological contamination on MOD sites poses a relatively low risk to human health and the wider environment.
While the MOD has information on those sites which have been subject to land quality assessment, the information is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.”
Extract from the recommendations in RWMAC's Advice to Ministers on The Ministry of Defence's Arrangements for Dealing with Radioactively Contaminated Land
"MoD should ensure, possibly in conjunction with other Government departments, that existing records of characterisation and remediation of its past and present landholdings are not lost"
"MoD should be as clear as is reasonably possible about its contaminated land holdings, and should set up a database for this purpose (drawing on LQA findings and on previous site investigation records, including desk studies and other land quality data). At the time of finalising this report (June 2000), the Ministry indicated that it was in the process of developing such a database;"
More detailed information from the RWMAC report relating to record keeping