Weapons test site contamination needs more research

Research into the soil contamination of the UK's biggest weapons testing site will need several years' detailed research to complete, the Ministry of Defence has said.

The soil quality assessment at the MOD-owned Shoeburyness facility in Essex called for further study across the site area, which includes substantial amounts of farmland.

The 160-year-old Shoeburyness facility was where the components of Britain’s first nuclear bomb were tested in the 1940s. It now continues to serve the military for bomb and firing range testing.

The study found “potential concern” about contamination with radioactive materials, explosives, beryllium and other dangerous substances on the site, which comprises 30km2 of land and 100km2 of mudflats. It also warned about possible pollution of surface and ground water.

Consultants Carl Bro have so far completed the first, desk-based part of the study, including interviews with current and former Shoeburyness employees and archive searches.

The second stage, expected to last up to three years, will involve field work, including soil sampling. It will concentrate on potential risk areas identified in the first part of the study.

Announcing the results, under secretary of state for defence Don Touhig said: “The MoD conducts routine reviews of all its sites across its 240,000 hectare estate, but we recognise that Shoeburyness is of particular interest given its use for weapons test and evaluation.

“MoD Shoeburyness is an important national asset that needs to be maintained and sustained.”

Goska Romanowicz

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