Anti-nuclear campaigners are protesting outside Chester Railway Station this Saturday over concerns about trains carrying highly-radioactive used fuel rods within feet of passengers.
Close Capenhurst group says these trains regularly travel through Chester en route to Sellafield in Cumbria and claim flasks containing the radioactive waste leak low level radiation, which could be harmful, especially to children.
The group has highlighted a YouTube video which shows one of the trains passing under a footbridge near Chester station as a mother pushes a pushchair directly above one of the nuclear flasks.
Activist Martyn Lowe said: “These flasks ‘sweat’ radioactivity, it gets under the paint. It is low level radiation but could affect anybody nearby. "Children shouldn’t be anywhere near. In adults the thyroid glands have developed but in children they are not as developed and what happens is much nastier.”
The group says there have been rail accidents involving nuclear trains and questions whether crash tests have been rigorous enough to ensure safety in all circumstances, including a terrorist incident.
Direct Rail Services, who operate the trains, says there is no need for concern.
A spokesman said: “The safety and security of all transport operations is our number one priority. The safety record of moving spent fuel by rail is exemplary – this material has been transported in this way since 1962, travelling over 12 million miles without any incident involving the release of radioactive material.
“The nuclear industry prefers to use rail as the primary mode of transport. The in-built safety systems that allow the network to operate are ideally suited to these types of cargoes.
“Direct Rail Services runs its operations within extremely stringent safety and security standards, which are continuously monitored to minimise the risk of any incident. The Office for Nuclear Regulation-Civil Nuclear Security and The Office of Rail Regulation continuously audits and approves the safety and security systems that are in place.
“All spent fuel is transported in heavily shielded, purpose built containers – known as flasks. Constructed from forged steel, more than 30cm thick, each flask typically weighs more than 50 tonnes.
“The design for an approved flask must be capable of surviving a series of severe sequential tests – involving fire, immersion in water and crash damage - which simulates damage that would be in excess of a very serious transport accident.
"All these flasks adhere to the International Atomic Energy Agency standards.”