RESIDENTS in Eastham have raised health concerns this week after a consignment of liquid uraniun was transported to Wirral for treatment at an enrichment plant.

The uranium hexafluride was brought in from a North American location on the Baltic Mercur v.R0-13, a tanker which berthed at the Queen Elizabeth Dock in Eastham this afternoon.

The chemical form of uranium, it is used during the uranium enrichment process and was unloaded 200 yards from a housing estate in Eastham Village.

It is due to be transported to the Urenco UK's enrichment plant in Capenhurst tomorrow morning.

Peel Holdings say the unloading of the 150 containers in Eastham is a one-off, because of the size of the shipment.

One resident who insisted on anonymity said: "We only found out about this last week, and there was no notification that this was going to happen.

"There is a huge concern from residents about this sort of waste being dumped here and the health risks.

"From our perspective, this is just another example of Peel Holding's complete disregard for the public by allowing this to happen.

"If this is going to be a regular occurence, I dread to think what the health consequences could be.

"My understanding is that the associated risk is not from the radiation, which is basically only at the same levels as that which came from the potential for the chemical to react with the moisture in the atmosphere to produce uranyl fluoride and hydrogen fluoride, both of which are toxic and highly soluble."

A spokesman for Peel Ports Mersey said: "This is a regular cargo from North America of uranium hexafluoride, the commonest compound of uranium, destined for processing at the nuclear site at Capenhurst.

"It has been coming here for many years, and is usually discharged at Ellesmere Port, from where it is transported to Capenhurst.

"However in this instance the larger size of the delivery vessel means it is too big to use the Ship Canal, and will unload at the Queen Elizabeth II Dock at Eastham.

"The cargo complies fully with the most stringent statutory safety regulations, and will be securely handled by dockers fully trained in dealing with such materials."