20 years on, Britain still feels the effects of Chernobyl

By Catriona Davies
(Filed: 01/04/2006)

//www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/04/01/nfarm101.xml

Before Emlyn Roberts, a North Wales sheep farmer, can take any of his lambs to market, he has to call in the government inspectors with their Geiger counters. They scan the animals for signs of radiation because the land they graze is still contaminated from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster which occurred 20 years ago this month. If the radiation levels are too high, the lambs cannot be sold for meat until they have spent time on other land.

Mr Roberts is one of 375 British farmers, with more than 200,000 sheep, whose land is still considered "dirty" and subject to restrictions brought in after radioactive rains brought contamination to Britain in 1986.

When the restrictions were established, farmers were told they would apply for only a few weeks, months at most. Twenty years later, many farmers have had to accept that their land could be affected for years to come.

Immediately after the world's worst nuclear reactor meltdown in Ukraine, almost 9,000 British farms were placed under restrictions. Now 95 per cent of the land has been cleared, but it still affects 355 farms in Wales, 11 in Scotland and nine in Cumbria. The land is monitored continually by the Food Standards Agency.

The farmers need to obtain a licence every time they want to move their sheep and call in Government inspectors to scan each animal before it can be sold. They are paid £1.30 compensation for each sheep scanned, the same as in 1986.

Mr Roberts, 39, is the fourth generation of his family to run Esgairgawr farm, in Dolgellau, North Wales, where he keeps 1,000 sheep. He usually calls in inspectors every week between July and December, when his lambs are sold.

"At peak times, we have to give the inspectors seven days notice, so we can never take advantage of sudden improvements in trade and always have to plan well in advance," he said. "It's worrying that something that happened thousands of miles away can still have such an effect on us."

Rhodri Jones, 28, the fifth generation of his family to run the 650-acre Bryn Llech Uchaf farm in Llanuwchllyn, near Bala, keeps up to 700 sheep. More than half of the farm is on a mountain within the contaminated area. He said: "In 1986 we got £1.30 a head compensation, and it hasn't gone up in 20 years."

Glyn Roberts, 50, a father-of-five with a sheep farm in Padog, near Betws-y-Coed, said: "When the restrictions first started they said it would only last for six months, but 20 years later it is still here."

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2006.


Informant: Teresa Binstock

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Chernobyl may have killed 1000 British babies - UN accused of ignoring 500,000 Chernobyl deaths
//freepage.twoday.net/stories/1735858/

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