Glasgow & West Scotland

Warning over radiation station cuts

CRCE building
Image caption The CRCE laboratory was the first in the UK to detect radioactive fallout from the Fukushima disaster

Scotland could lose the ability to respond quickly to nuclear emergencies if staffing is cut at a monitoring station, it has been claimed.

The warning came from the former head of the Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards in Glasgow.

The laboratory was the first in the UK to detect trace amounts of radioactive fallout from Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in March 2011.

It was established in the 1970s by the National Radiological Protection Board.

Despite its work across the UK, the CRCE is funded by Public Health England.

Scientists in Glasgow fear they will be hit hardest by proposed staff reductions.

Ron Wheelton retired as head of department at CRCE Scotland three years ago.

Early stage

He told BBC Scotland: "Staff have been told Public Health England proposes to 'disestablish' 11 posts in the Scottish laboratory to cut costs.

"With the loss of the laboratory's most senior staff, Scotland will lose a vital resource needed to monitor the country's exposure to radiation and to respond promptly to nuclear and radiological emergencies."

Public Health England said the discussions were at an early stage.

Prof Paul Cosford, director for health protection at Public Health England, said: "Staff from Oxfordshire, Glasgow and Leeds are being consulted on a range of proposals designed to ensure a secure future for the whole of CRCE.

"It is not proposed to close the Glasgow facility and PHE management will only accept changes that will enable the Scottish centre to continue to contribute effectively to CRCE's radiation emergency response capability."

Image caption Ron Wheelton said the centre was a "vital resource"

Sources in the scientific community have told BBC Scotland there are genuine concerns about the Glasgow laboratory's long-term prospects for survival if the job cuts go ahead.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) relies on the laboratory to monitor levels of radiation in the atmosphere and in food such as fish, meat and milk.

It has been given no details of the proposed changes at CRCE.

Paul Dale, principal policy officer in Sepa's radioactive substances unit, said: "We have been given assurances that our contractual arrangements with them will be fulfilled, but we have not seen the proposal and have no details of what may or may not be included."

A spokesman for the Scottish government said the CRCE facility was "vital" to maintaining the radiation emergency resilience and response capability provided by PHE in Scotland.

He added: "We strongly oppose any loss of jobs and will be writing to the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health outlining our position".

Environmental campaigners also warned the loss of the laboratory could have serious implications.

Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: "The great value of this place was demonstrated when Fukushima went up, when we could take dust samples from the streets of Glasgow, analyse them and have the results there and then.

"If we have to wait several days before we know what the risks actually are, that clearly is not good enough to protect the environment or to protect people."

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