Culham Science Centre nuclear experts fear quarry dust

BBC 16 August 2016

The Joint European Torus is based at Culham Science Centre

Scientists are concerned dust from a planned quarry could affect their nuclear fusion experiments.

Hills Quarry Products wants to dig out 2.5 million tonnes of sand and gravel from an Oxfordshire site over 10 years.

The Culham Science Centre (CSC), which is close to the site near Clifton Hampden and home to the UK Atomic Energy Authority, has objected.

In a letter, the centre said its “sensitive equipment” could be affected adversely by “wind borne dust”.

It added: “The environmental impact assessment submitted by the applicant completely fails to recognise the importance of CSC, and hence also completely fails to assess the impact that the quarry might have on the site.”

The site is also home to the Joint European Torus, which experiments with fusion, with an aim to create clean, almost limitless energy.

‘Strong opposition’

A spokesman at the centre said: “Our main concern is that Hills Quarry Products have not provided sufficient evidence on the impact of dust from the proposed quarry on operations at the Culham site.
“We have raised this in our submission to Oxfordshire County Council and trust that the planning process will ensure our concerns are addressed.

South Oxfordshire District Council urged Oxfordshire County Council to take account of a “number of issues of strategic importance” including the “risk of adverse impact to initiatives and investment associated with the Science Vale area”.

Giles Baxter, from campaign group Burcot and Clifton Hampden Protection of the River Thames (Bachport), said: “The fears expressed by Culham and the Environment Agency come on top of the strong opposition from local villages.

Oxfordshire County Council said the application was being processed and would be determined by its planning and regulation committee “in due course”.

A spokesman for Hills Quarry Products said the potential for dust emissions was “minimal” and consultants were in touch with the science centre to “gain a better understanding of their concerns”.