Stop Dumping Radioactive Waste in Cumbrian Seas

“Beachcomber” Cumbrian artist Kevin Carr teams up with film maker Michael Cumming – brilliant and very moving. ( over 20 years ago the Arts Council felt able to fund powerful art projects critical of the nuclear industry – fat chance of a film like this receiving govnt sponsorship in this era of nuclear cheerleading!)


3 Weeks to Save the Lakes and Radiation Free Lakeland will be at St Bees on 27th April at 11 am to place visual reminders of the 41 radioactive particles found on the beach at St Bees last year. This number does not of course cover the unfound/airborne radioactive particles!

3 Weeks to Save the Lakes and Radiation Free Lakeland are calling on the government to stop their illegal activity of dumping radioactive waste at sea.

On 27th April Cumbrian groups will join with others worldwide who are taking actions to mark the anniversary of the on-going Chernobyl catastrophe. The catastrophes of Chernobyl and Fukushima are on-going, meanwhile here in Cumbria radioactive particles continue to accumulate.


Discharges of radioactive waste into the Irish Sea from nuclear fuel reprocessing at Sellafield in Cumbria are increasing because of an insane “crash programme” of reprocessing planned by the government’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA). This is a likely cause of the record number of radioactive particles found on Cumbrian beaches in 2010-12.

In an activity that would not be out of place in a science fiction novel, workers spend hours beach combing for radioactive particles. They use specialist equipment to pick up radioactive particles from selected Cumbrian beaches.


In 2011 the Sellafield site itself raised concerns. The Beach Combers undergo routine tests and in 2011 “workers had provided urine samples in which 241Am was measured above reporting levels”. 241 Americium is a man-made metal a product of reprocessing and nuclear weapons detonations. People may be exposed to both alpha and gamma radiation by breathing in americium-contaminated dust, or drinking contaminated water. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency “Living near a weapons testing or production facility may increase your chance of exposure to americium-241”. It can stay in the body for decades increasing the risk of developing cancer.


Rather oddly the Health Protection Agency has reassured the Sellafield sites that the risks to the public are lower than the risks to the beach monitors “It should be noted that the probability that a beach worker would come into proximity with a radioactive object is quite different to the equivalent probability for a member of the public. The beach workers are using highly specialised and sensitive equipment to find and retrieve radioactive objects, so the probability that they would come into close proximity with such an object over an extended period of work on the beaches is high”.

There is a huge flaw in this argument as monitoring is stopped over summer and bank holidays in order not to frighten people using the beaches. Also members of the public are not solely made up of healthy, suited and booted men. Members of the public include young children and pregnant mothers, they include the elderly and those with already compromised immune sytems. Members of the public are not suited and booted, they are not undergoing routine testing for inhalation of a large cocktail of Sellafield’s dumped radioactive particles of which americium is only one.


Cumbrian seas and coastlines are suffering a double whammy of illegal radioactive waste dumping from Sellafield’s continued reprocessing and also from the Ministry of Defence’s continued dumping of depleted uranium shells into the Solway Firth. In the past 30 years, over 6,700 shells have been fired from the range, containing nearly 30 tonnes of depleted uranium. They pierce canvas targets on the cliffs, and then plunge in the sea. In both cases the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority at Sellafield and the MOD on the Solway are in breach of an international ban on the dumping of radioactive waste at sea.


The Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic, known as the OSPAR convention, agreed by 15 governments, including the UK, said “it was illegal to dump waste into the sea.”

Radiation Free Lakeland and 3 Weeks to Save the Lakes are calling on the government to stop their illegal activity of dumping radioactive waste at sea.

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