Stop Hinkley Press Release

29th February 2008

Study shows extra infant deaths near Hinkley

A new study has shown a three-fold excess of infant mortality in nearby towns bordering the Severn Estuary, downwind of Hinkley Point and is the subject of BBC Inside Out West tonight.

The study by Dr Chris Busby of Green Audit has been supported by a former Director of the South West Cancer Registry.

Using Government figures, Dr Busby of Green Audit found there was an almost three times greater risk of infant mortality between 1996 and 2001 in the 'estuary wards' of Brean, Berrow, Burnham, Highbridge, Huntspill, Combwich and Pawlett compared with inland wards.

The rate of deaths in under one-year-olds was found to be ten per thousand compared with 3.5 per thousand further inland. The risk of this occurring by chance is one in five thousand. It adds weight to the theory that dangerous radioactive particles discharged into the sea and air at Hinkley are ingested by residents downwind from the power station and mudflats.

Neonatal deaths (in children up to 28 days old) were also found to be high, particularly in Burnham North during the period 1993-8 at six times the rate expected. The likelihood of this being a chance occurrence was one in three hundred.

Dr Chris Busby was commissioned by Stop Hinkley to follow up earlier cancer studies which had shown excesses of breast cancer and leukaemia in the area adjacent to contaminated mud-flats between Hinkley and Burnham-on-Sea.

Dr Derek Pheby, former Cancer Registry head said these two findings were significant: "This is a serious finding, and most unlikely to have arisen by chance. The likelihood is that something happened environmentally at the beginning of the period in question and it is very likely, although this would be difficult to prove, that the accidental releases of radioactive material in 1994 to which the authors draw attention is implicated in this.

"Clearly this is a serious matter, which warrants further investigation. The South West Public Health Observatory [formerly the SW Cancer Registry] ought to take this seriously."

The ratio of male children born, compared with females was also studied in the report, as this is thought to be linked to radiation effects. The 'sex ratio' as it is known was found to be abnormal in Burnham North at nineteen percent more boys born compared with girls. This ratio is a steady five percent higher in England and Wales but the Burnham statistic mirrors that of births in Hiroshima after the atom bomb contamination.

More supporting evidence of the Hinkley coastal effect was found by comparing infant mortality in distance bands from the contaminated Steart Flats. In years 1993-98 eleven infant deaths occurred when only six were expected within a close band of six kilometers.

A smaller proportion of ten deaths, against 6.5 expected, occurred between 6 and 12 kilometers but the trend reversed between 12 and 18 kilometers where 12 deaths occurred when 15 were expected. Outside the 18 kilometer band this healthier trend continued.

An accidental release of radiation from Hinkley A in 1994 led to a fine of £22,000 and may have been implicated in the extra deaths recorded, with a peak in 1995.

Jim Duffy spokesman for Stop Hinkley who commissioned the report, said: "The tide is turning with more scientific support for the compelling evidence that radiation is harmful to local communities and particularly to vulnerable infants."

" COMARE, the Government watchdog assigned to monitor health trends near nuclear plants should now be disbanded as they've missed these effects and discouraged the local Primary Care Trust from researching the trends any further (1). Hinkley B should shut down and the Hinkley C project abandoned. In the USA reactors cannot be built within 25 miles of populations over 10,000, the size of Burnham-on-Sea only five miles away."

Jim Duffy, Stop Hinkley Coordinator, 07969 974805

Previous studies:

  • Somerset Health Authority, 1998

Dr Cameron Bowie found leukaemia in under 25's was 24% more prevalent near Hinkley Point from 1971-87.

1969-73 found nine cases when 2.27 were expected with a one chance in 1,700 of being coincidence. Hinkley A was commissioned in 1969. The study did not include Burnham and adjacent towns.

  • Dr Chris Busby, 2000

Found breast cancer mortality excess of 89% (almost double) in Burnham North 1993-98. Low lying coastal downwind wards more affected than hilly areas.

  • Doorstep survey by Parents Concerned About Hinkley, 2002

Interviews of 1,500 people in Burnham North showed breast cancer incidence double that expected and leukaemia three times that expected.

  • SW Cancer Intelligence Service, 2003

Showed breast cancer registrations 24% extra from Berrow to Highbridge including Burnham with 33% excess in Burnham South over ten years to 2000. Leukaemia was 57% extra in the four wards. A follow-up showed Burnham South had 22% extra breast cancer incidence over 13 years. Author, Dr Julia Verne, claimed it was a random occurrence and, despite this being her first such paper, was promptly elected to the Government radiation risk committee, COMARE.

  • COMARE 2006

Studied UK childhood cancers. Found excesses near nuclear weapons factories but not near nuclear power stations. Stop Hinkley criticised the paper for 'averaging' figures to a distance of 25 kilometers, including large unpolluted populations.


(1) Letter from Dr Julia Verne, Consultant in Public Health Medicine, SW Cancer Intelligence Service, 19 September 2003 to Mr Alan Carpenter Chief Executive Somerset Coast Primary Care Trust:

"...COMARE (Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment) have strongly recommended that we do not need to undertake any further investigations except for the follow-up on breast cancer incidence."


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The report is the subject for a documentary piece on 'Inside Out West', February 29th at 7.30pm on BBC 1 West.
In it we call for nuclear 'new build' plans to be abandoned and the Government radiation risk committee to be disbanded. A video of the documentary can be viewed on






Page Updated 01-Mar-2008