WWII Radiation Poses a Threat to Future Housing Developments


The UK Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) reported that an unknown number of defunct World War II military bases may have high levels of radiation and could pose a threat to the public and the environment. Housing developers seek out land that was used as military bases because they are usually free of planning restrictions that are generally used for development.

The Dalgety Bay in Fife is one particular base that could be a problem. It has been reported that large radioactive particles have been found on the beaches around the Dalgety Bay shoreline. It is said that their origin comes from disposed WWII fighter planes that had radium tipped dials. These planes were dismantled after the airfield was closed.

Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) demands that the Ministry of Defense clean up the site, however the MOD are putting up a fight. The MOD suggests that the land could be deemed as “radioactive contaminated land.”

26 other WWII sites all across the United Kingdom could be contaminated. These sites may also have been contaminated due to dismantled WWII equipment. Two other sites include the old SAS HQ at Hereford and the old Red Arrows Air Base in Gloucestershire.

The MOD believes that there are 150 to 250 WWII locations across Wales and England that could be contaminated. Although it is speculated that there could be as many as 1,000 sites.

Tim Deere-Jones, a Radiation Policy Advisor, told Green Building Press:  “Plainly this has the potential to be an issue of relevance to the public, especially in the context that a number of these sites will have open access, while others may already have been the subject of industrial or housing development, closely adjacent to housing and industrial sites or integrated into farmland. Evidently, in the event of radium contamination of such sites, there will be a variety of pathways by which human and wildlife populations could be exposed to radioactive contamination.”

The NFLA are looking for a response concerning the situation. The NFLA implore the MOD and Environment Agency to run proper tests on suspected areas to detect radiation and follow proper clean up procedures.

NFLA Councillor Ed Bridges said: “The NFLA’s report on Dalgety Bay and the identification of a large number of other bases which could have radium contamination is highly alarming. The early research suggests this could also be very much a Welsh issue of concern as well. I am keen that we get greater clarity on this from the Welsh Government and the MOD. Who knows if Welsh Councils are sitting on similar issues that are facing Fife Council at Dalgety Bay?”

Evette Champion

Evette Champion is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE