HEALTH experts have rubbished anti-nuclear campaigners' claims that Hinkley Point is to blame for high rates of breast cancer among women in Burnham over an 11-year period.

Campaign group Stop Hinkley commissioned Professor Chris Busby of environmental consultants, Green Audit, to analyse cancer diagnosis data it obtained from the South West Public Health Observatory under the Freedom of Information Act.

The group says Professor Busby's subsequent study showed 167 women in Burnham's north and south wards developed the deadly disease between 1994 and 2004 - 54 more than would normally be expected.

According to Stop Hinkley, Professor Derek Pheby, who independently reviewed the figures, claimed the chances of such high rates occurring randomly would be one in two million, although the South-West PHO said cancer rates were one quarter above the national average throughout the South-West.

Jim Duffy, Stop Hinkley co-ordinator, said: “Over 50 Burnham families have needlessly lived with this killer disease in the last decade alone. Let's stop the cause of it by snuffing out nuclear power at Hinkley Point.”

However, a Somerset Primary Care Trust spokesman said: “The PCT has seen no new or compelling evidence to date which would support campaigners' hypothesis that radioactive pollution arising from the past operation or the recent decommissioning of Hinkley Point, is responsible for a statistical increase in the incidence of breast or any other cancer in the surrounding area.”

EDF Energy, which plans to build a third nuclear power station at Hinkley Point, said it supported the findings of the independent Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment, which concluded that power stations were not associated with increased cases of cancer.