Durham University experts warn fracking could increase water radioactivity but not pose a threat to public health

The research was carried out by Durham University and Researching Fracking in Europe.

Inside a site which is used for fracking
Inside a site which is used for fracking

Fracking will increase water radioactivity but not pose a threat to public health, a study has warned.

Research published by experts at Durham University has found that waste fluids from shale gas exploitation will contain radioactive elements.

The research looked at the changing levels of radioactivity in waste fluid at three places, including Bowland shale in Lancashire.

In all three locations the levels of the liquid wouldn’t expose radioactivity to a level greater than the annual exposure limit set by the UK Environment Agency.

Professor Fred Worrall, a professor of environmental chemistry at Durham University and author of the paper, said: “The findings of this research confirm that levels of water radioactivity in the flowback water from shale gas operations would be lower than the annual exposure limit set by the Environment Agency and would not pose a significant threat to public health.

“It is important to bear in mind the context of the shale gas industry against other forms of energy production.

“We, in the UK, already handle larger volumes of fluid with higher radioactivity from other energy industries, such as conventional oil and gas production.”

The research was carried out by ReFINE (Researching Fracking in Europe), an independent research consortium.

The report, called the Environmental Science & Pollution research, found that in the Bowland shale the waste fluid would be 500 times more radioactive than the level expected from local ground water.

This, however, would still be less than the Environment Agency’s annual exposure limit.

Prof Richard Davies, of Durham University and ReFINE project leader, said: “The publication of ReFINE’s fourth research paper comes at a critical time in the national debate around shale gas and oil exploitation.

“It underlines the need to have up-to-date independent and impartial scientific research on issues which the public wants and the Government needs.”

The paper found that radioactivity release in water would be higher for both offshore oil and gas and nuclear power generation, than those estimated for shale gas operations.

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