Hundreds of sites across England and Wales could be contaminated with radioactive waste from old military bases and factories, according to a new government report.
Up to 1,000 sites could be polluted, though the best guess is that between 150 and 250 are, says a report on contaminated land by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc), released last month, but previously unreported.
This is far higher than previous official estimates, with evidence from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) last December suggesting that there were just 15 sites in the UK contaminated with radium from old planes and other equipment.
The MoD has come under fire from former prime minister Gordon Brown for trying to evade responsibility for cleaning up the contamination it has caused. His constituency in Fife, north of Edinburgh, includes one of the most notorious examples of radioactive pollution at Dalgety Bay.
In the past year, the MoD has realised that there are others areas of radioactive contamination across the country that may need to be cleaned up, Brown said. “They’ve started to use their lawyers to get out of what is, in the first place, I think, a moral responsibility and in the second place, will become a legal responsibility.”