The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been forced to abandon attempts to block a report by government advisers warning that radioactive contamination of military sites across the UK could pose a risk to public health.
The report was submitted for publication last October by the 18-member Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (COMARE). To the frustration of its authors and the Scottish government, UK ministers have sat on it for the last six months because of objections from the MoD.
But after the 70-page report was leaked to The Guardian, a decision was taken in Whitehall yesterday (Tuesday) to publish it early next week. It will reveal that COMARE is seriously concerned about radium contamination from the Second World War at Dalgety Bay in Fife and at least 25 other sites across the UK.
The contamination at Dalgety Bay poses "a potential risk to public health", the report says. The MoD’s failure to provide a comprehensive list of other potentially contaminated sites is condemned as “unacceptable” as it "implies an unknown risk to the general population".
According to the report, past disposal of radium - used to paint aircraft dials so that they could be read in the dark – was "very widespread". It criticises the MoD for only providing a "limited list" of sites where this could have happened. Though the only site named in the report is Dalgety Bay, 15 have been previously listed by the MoD.