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Nuclear workers may be advised not to have children

Some workers at the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant may be counseled not to have children because higher-than-expected rates of leukemia have been found among workers' children, a company official said Wednesday. Men working at the plant in the north of England could also be moved away from areas of high radiation if they want to have children, said a professor responsible for the report.

"Workers who want individual counseling can get it and if they are so worried the advice could be: "Don't have a family'," said Roger Berry, health and safety director of British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) which runs Sellafield.

"It is not something, however, that I hope would be widespread advice," he told a news conference at the plant.

A major study published last week said there could be a link between high levels of leukemia among children in the area and their fathers' work at Sellafield.

The study said high doses of radiation could have affected the men's sperm, introducing a gene mutation that increased the risk of cancer to their children.

Prof. Martin Gardner, who headed the study, met workers at Sellafield Wednesday and said he would urge BNFL to consider minimizing the exposure of younger people to high radiation levels.

"These would be the sort of people who were still capable of having families and may prefer not working in higher radiation levels," Gardner said.

He said children born to fathers exposed to high radiation at the plant were seven times more likely to get leukemia than children in other parts of the country.

Sellafield management said the plant had reduced radiation levels over the past 20 years and would continue to do so.

- Information from AP was used in this report.