ATOMIC Energy Authority officials at Dounreay did not tell the

Government body investigating childhood leukemia around the plant in

1987 of the existence of its controversial nuclear waste shaft, let

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alone the explosion in it in 1977.

In the damning report published on Tuesday, the Committee on Medical

Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (Comare) expressed serious

concern that its Second Report published in 1988 on childhood leukemia

did not have all the relevant evidence.

Accusing the UKAEA of having neglected its reponsibilities, Professor

Bryn Bridges, chairman of Comare, confirmed yesterday that the agency

had wrongly led it to believe that the source of radioactive particles

found on the foreshore had come from an accidental spillage in 1965.

Part of the Comare Second Report states: ''We asked the UKAEA for

details of any unplanned or experimental releases which had not been

included in the discharges showed in tables A3 (2-4) and which might

have had off-site radiological consequences.

''UKAEA have reviewed their records and provided us with the details

which are at A3.3 in the Annexe. This also includes their assessment of

any environmental impact from these incidents.''

Tables A3, however, reveal no mention of the waste shaft.

Professor Bridges said yesterday: ''I think that the committee is

certainly concerned that the conclusions it came to in its Second Report

might possibly have been different if it had known certain facts that it

didn't know.

''It is not so much that the UKAEA didn't tell us about the shaft.

They led us to believe that the source of the radioactive particles

found on the foreshore was an accidential spillage in 1965 which had

been hosed down a drain in the road by the local fire brigade. That is

where they said the particles were coming from.''

Professor Bridges said Comare had begun to doubt the veracity of that

information after studies between 1992 and 1994 about links between

child leukemia and use of beaches around Dounreay, adding that it later

transpired that the UKAEA had already had a number of possible sources

at the time of the Second Report on Dounreay.

''They allowed us to go on thinking that the 1965 spillage was the

source of the particles even when they themselves knew that there were

other possible sources which were more likely, one of which was the

shaft.

''They did not know the source themselves and they did not tell Comare

that. A group such as ours can only do its job properly if it is given

all the information it requires and there is no doubt that we were

severely hindered.''

He continued: ''We also feel they neglected their responsibilities

because, having got a number of potential hypotheses, they did not take

that any further.

''Would it have made any difference to our final conclusions? The

answer is no. We don't think that these particles on the foreshore are

the cause of the excess childhood leukemia. However, if we had known at

the time that the source of the particles was not established we would

certainly have made strong recommendations to find the source and

eliminate that.''

Professor Bridges added that, although the current UKAEA management

had been very helpful, ''I would say that the UKAEA's attitude in the

1980s was very unprofessional -- much lower than one would expect from a

body as theoretically responsible as them.''

Dounreay's management yesterday responded to Comare's criticism by

saying management at the time had given the group all relevant

information in terms of Comare's specific requests.

Mr Ian Shepherd, a Dounreay spokesman, stressed that the current

management was not at Dounreay at the time but had studied all the

records available to their predecessors and believed there had been no

intention to mislead Comare in 1987.

He said he was unable to say why there had been no reference to the

shaft in drawings made available to Comare but suggested that this may

have been because Comare had asked for information about active

facilities while the shaft ceased to be in active use in 1977.

''You have to measure what was provided against what was asked for by

Comare,'' he added.

Mr Shepherd said Comare had requested details of unplanned discharges

and Dounreay responded by giving details of such discharges, including

reference to one which was linked to metallic particles which had

occasionaly been found on the Dounreay foreshore.

''The Comare request therefore was in connection with any unplanned

discharges and was not a dedicated investigation into the metallic

particles found on the beach.

''Information provided by the authority to Comare at that time was

therefore judged to be sufficient for the purpose of that inquiry.

According to records at Dounreay, when Comare visited the site in

November 1987 they received a presentation which included a section on

beach particles and in the notes of that meeting it is stated 'their

composition and the methods by which they might have been deposited was

described.'

''This, therefore, suggests that Comare were told of several possible

sources, although we believe the breach of a plastic pipeline in 1965

was at that time considered to be the most likely source of the

particles. We have no doubt that this opinion would have been passed on

to Comare.''