18 February 2000

Radioactivity warning

THE Environment Agency has called on the owners of combine harvesters, fitted with radioactive crop-flow meters, to ensure they are registered to help minimise any potential risk to the public or the environment.

The agencys call follows a court case which left a Lincs farmer facing a bill of more than £6200 after he pleaded guilty to keeping radioactive material without the correct registration.

Frank Wilson, who runs the 445ha (1100-acre) Highcliffe Farm, Ingham, said he would appeal against the severity of the sentence.

Lincoln magistrates were told that Mr Wilson failed to properly register his possession of a yield measurement meter incorporating a radioactive isotope called Americum 241.

The meter, encased in an aluminium container, was included in a Massey Ferguson combine harvester he bought in 1992.

Stuart Richmond, Environment Agency spokesman said the agencys representatives had told the magistrates that Mr Wilson applied for registration but failed to pay the fee, thereby invalidating the application.

In July last year inspectors visited the farm and found the device was still being used, fitted to a replacement combine.

Mr Wilson said this week that when he took delivery of the Massey Ferguson combine he had been told there were no extras to be paid.

When he was informed about the need to register the yield meter under the Radioactive Substances Act he expected either the dealer or the manufacturer to pay the fee.