Fierce Fire At UK Uranium
Munitions Plant - Radiation
Fallout Feared
By Paul Brown
Environment Correspondent
Testing continued all last night for possible radiation fall-out from a severe fire at a uranium munitions factory in Staffordshire.
Eighty firefighters and 15 pumps attended when uranium swarf caught fire at the Royal Ordnance depot in Featherstone yesterday.
With a plume of smoke reaching 2,500 ft, fire fighters in radiation suits used foam on the fire, in case water washed contaminated material down drains. Police ordered residents of the villages of Featherstone and Brinsford to stay indoors in case radioactive particles were carried by smoke. Prisoners in Featherstone jail were moved to another wing as a precaution. Depleted uranium is used in shells fired by tanks; such shells were used to destroy enemy tanks in the Gulf War, and are suspected as one cause of deformities and cancers in Iraqi children born since.
After four hours the fire was contained but still burned fiercely. A major emergency was declared, but last night it was believed that there had been no radiation leak although monitoring was continuing. The Environment Agency said that its staff, and those of the National Radiological Protection Board, would be remain all night as the damping-down continued. "We are concerned radioactive material may be still be dispersed into the drains."
Royal Ordnance said first tests showed that no toxic substances had been released.