Experts head to Plymouth to discuss radiation risks
LEADING experts on nuclear radiation gather for a major conference at Plymouth University this week.
The conference, organised by Plymouth based academic Professor Awadhesh Jha, will look at the health risks from radiation in the environment.
Prof Jha said the topic was of particular importance now because of plans to build new nuclear power plants in Britain and the headache of disposing of nuclear waste.
He said it was probably the first time that experts from across the field – academics, the nuclear industry, regulators and government – had been brought together under one roof.
"It will really move the science forward."
Among the experts speaking at the conference will be at least five who have worked on the fall-out from Japan's Fukushima power station disaster last year.
Prof Jha said there was a big contingent from France because the French firm EDF was involved in building Britain's new generation of nuclear power stations.
"It's a very proud moment for Plymouth. Most of these scientists are coming here for the first time.
"Our health depends on the health of the environment," Dr Jha said. "I hope this will be a leap forward in dealing with ways to protect health and the environment.
"There has always been controversy about the risks of leukaemia in children living near nuclear power stations.
"This is now particularly important because of plans to build new power stations, and the problems of getting rid of waste from the old ones.
"It will be 100 years before they dispose of all the nuclear material already generated."
The conference title is International Symposium on Environmental Radioactivity: Implications For Environmental and Human Health.
Scientists from across the world will attend, including from Europe, Japan, Canada, the United States and Russia.
The two-day symposium begins tomorrow.
"The subject of environmental radioactivity is entering an exciting phase given the anticipated increase in global demand for nuclear energy," Prof Jha said.
He said many issues needed urgent attention such as the discharge of radioactive particles, decommissioning reactors, the potential for nuclear accidents and dealing with radioactive waste.
He said there were big gaps in knowledge about health and environmental impacts.
Professor Jha of Plymouth University's School of Biomedical and Biological Sciences, is an eminent researcher on ecological hazards.