Graham Brightman shares his recollections of the aftermath of the Windscale file

Interviewer: [00:00:00] What about the immediate aftermath, then, what, what efforts were made to kind of erm, reassure the public then? Were you involved in those efforts?

Graham: [00:00:10] Yes, in the, to the extent that a number of things that were not expected, did happen. The example I have in mind because I was there and saw it, was the pouring away of the milk. Because it was made clear to the workers management, by the health physics people, that because of the probable concentration of a radioisotope of iodine in the milk, it would cause them hazard, cause some hazard if it was drunk, particularly by babies and young children. So to the consternation of the local farmers, who don’t throw things away if you don’t have to, when they can be used as food. The milk was sloshing down the drains and out to sea. Now, another thing that happened, which is worth recalling is this, that we were getting along quite nicely. We got the fire under control. There was, there had been a radioactive cloud coming out the chimney. I remember seeing it, because there was smoke, you see, there was opaque smoke as well, as air. The message comes from Sweden and the Scandinavian countries. We found that there’s a radioactive cloud over our country. Depends which way the wind is blowing, you see. What about that? Very reasonable thing for those people to say. And, you know, at government level, that showed, er I’ll have to be quick for you, that showed, the fact that a works manager had instant decisions to make, black or white, up or down. No time for doing more than the most rapid, but well informed thought. When he was asked by the BBC, ‘Is this here radioactivity spreading in Cumbria?’ He was, er he was unfortunately heard to say, ‘Oh, yeah, most of it will be within the factory perimeter’, you see. Which is true, you see, but wasn’t completely true, you see, because two or three days later, the BBC rings up again, same bloke, ‘Oh, we’ve had some reports from Sweden, your radioactivity has arrived there. Have you got any comment?’ The man was trying to deal with the aftermath of the fire and he was very short. Being a man of few words, some of them expletives, slammed the phone down on this guy. That wasn’t good. That wasn’t good at all. Didn’t help the image. But nevertheless, many of us might have done the same.

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