Plutonium detected in British soil

Radioactive fallout from nuclear testing has been detected in the UK's soil following field experiments that have revealed 160 years of history.

Soil and crop samples at Rothamsted Research in Hertfordshire have shown levels of plutonium in the soil that have now been traced back to nuclear fallout from testing on Bikini atoll and the Chernobyl accident.

The earth samples, taken as part of the world’s oldest running field experiments, also provided clear evidence of air pollution and global warming.

Dr Ian Croudace of the Southampton Oceanography Centre said that the samples had provided scientists with an invaluable archive of history. “The have provided us with the first evidence that plutonium from the Nevada Desert tests in 1952 and 1953 contaminated northwest Europe,” he said.

However, despite the presence of plutonium in our soil, Dr Croudace assured edie that the quantity was so small that it could not have a negative impact on British people: “The Rothamsted Grass sample archive allowed us to look at the historical input of Pu and U isotopic ratios into the England environment, but the levels of these radionuclides were low and not likely to produce any negative health effects.”

Scientist Professor Keith Goulding from Rothamsted Research said that the results were a major break through.

“A common feature of long term field experiments is that they come to be used in ways their founders could never have predicted,” Professor Goulding stated. “Events such as the Industrial Revolution, the introduction of unleaded petrol and acid rain can all be seen in the changing chemistry of the sample archive.”

By Jane Kettle

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