LISTENERS to a national radio station were shocked to learn that the normally peaceful county of North Yorkshire had launched a programme of illegal underground nuclear tests.

The news reader's slip of the tongue was broadcast on Monday, during a bulletin on BBC Radio Five Live. The top story was a report on the worldwide disapproval of North Korea's recent tests.

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The female news reader, whose identity is not known, said: "There has been widespread condemnation of North Yorkshire's decision to carry out an underground nuclear test.

"The UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon says he is deeply worried."

Independent North Yorkshire county councillor John Blackie, who represents the Upper Dales, joked that could think of no secret underground testing sites in the county.

Coun Blackie said: "I am not aware of any nuclear bunkers in the dales.

"I do not think there are any at all in the county, I have to say."

A spokesman for Five Live said: "We are aware of the occasional tensions between North and South Yorkshire, but clearly this was a slip of the tongue.

"Some of our listeners did point out the error, but this was a mistake and we have no fears about the good people of North Yorkshire."

With its picturesque market towns and unspoilt rural scenery, including the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors national parks, North Yorkshire would seem an unlikely choice of destination, should a sudden change of policy on nuclear testing occur.

But the county's seat of government, Northallerton, will not become the subject of the same intense global scrutiny as its North Korean equivalent, Pyongyang.

North Yorkshire, England's largest county, has no nuclear power stations or sites registered as processing nuclear materials.

However, hospitals and industrial units in the county often use radioactive sources in medical treatments and testing of metals and surfaces.

An article on the council's website reads: "Nuclear materials and radioactive sources are routinely transported on the roads and rail system.

"The risks are minimal and it would require an exceptional chain of events to create the circumstances for them to be of any hazard to the public."

Although the BBC has confirmed that the clip is genuine, there had been some confusion as to whether it was a so-called 'viral' - a video or audio clip that gains widespread popularity through the process of online sharing.