A CORONER has ruled that there is not enough evidence to link the death from leukaemia of a former driver at the Winfrith nuclear site to radiation exposure during his employment.

West Dorset Coroner Michael Johnston said that John Lionel Edwards, of Reed View Close, Weymouth, died of natural causes.

Dr John Mikel, histopathologist at Dorset County Hospital in Dorchester, said Mr Edwards died aged 69 at the Joseph Weld Hospice of bronchial pneumonia due to acute myeloid leukaemia.

Mr Johnston said: "For people with a history of exposure there is an increased risk, but the levels he was exposed to were well within the permitted levels. I don't think anybody can say that it didn't contribute, but there is no evidence that there was any definite link."

Mr Edwards' wife Pamela, who was married to him for 47 years, told the inquest that her husband had worked at the UK Atomic Energy Association (UKAEA) site at Winfrith from 1973 to 1974 then again between 1982 and 1991.

He was initially employed as a driver and then in the stores after a stroke meant he was unable to drive.

In a letter to the inquest from UKAEA's legal department it said that all workers were made to wear a dosimeter badge to measure radiation and, while some of these could be reset, the radiation dose an employee had been exposed to was always recorded first.

The letter included readings from Mr Edwards' dosimeter throughout his time at Winfrith and revealed that he had been exposed to a total of 27.9 MilliSieverts (MS) of radiation during his whole period of employment.

Radiation protection supervisor at UKAEA Winfrith Mike Rogers said that the average annual maximum permitted at the time was 50 MS and was now 20.

But Mrs Edwards said that in his first spell with the company her husband took on overtime work helping to clean out the nuclear reactors during a shutdown period. She told the coroner: "On one occasion he hadn't finished what he was doing and they wiped (the radiation levels off) his badge and told him to go back in."

Consultant haematologist Dr Akeel Moosa, who treated Mr Edwards for leukaemia, said that the level he had been exposed to was the equivalent of giving a patient three CT (computerised tomography) scans, and he regularly ordered 10 scans for a single patient.

He said: "It is difficulty so say with certainty how much the exposure actually contributed."

Mr Johnston said to Mrs Edwards: "It looks to me that there is nothing to link your husband's work with his death, and I'm going to record a verdict of natural causes."