Blog Archives

How many nuclear installations will be vulnerable to floods and rising seas?

Lesley Docksey sends news that Marianne Birkby has written to Cumbria County Council asking them not to approve the plan to extend the life and capacity of the Drigg nuclear waste site (below) on the West Coast of Cumbria.

nuclear 2 drigg repository

Three years ago DEFRA reported on the nuclear sites which are at risk of flooding and coastal erosion – see Rob Edwards in the Guardian.

Are politicians acting on this information?

Last year, the Guardian reported that an internal Environment Agency document suggests that it was a mistake to position the Drigg radioactive waste site close to the Cumbrian coast because of the risk of flooding. Ian Parker, the Environment Agency’s group manager in Cumbria said, after detailed technical examinations: ‘It’s highly probable the coast will erode and the waste (at Drigg) will be disrupted.’

Are contents confined to low level waste?

The University of Reading has pointed out in its radiological risk assessment that compacted waste is currently placed in steel ISO-freight containers, with void space filled with highly fluid cement based grout. Radionuclides with highest activities in the inventory – include 3H, 241Pu, 137Cs, 234U and 90Sr, 238U and 232Th.

Have defective radioactive waste containers been replaced?

drigg llw 3

In 2013 the Low Level Repository Ltd’s management wrote: “in containers at the tops of stacks, the external capping grout has undergone extensive physical degradation and settlement; the lids are not full of grout, and the grout is generally heavily cracked. The state of the capping grout in underlying layers is better; most containers only show sparse cracking and typical settlement in the lid is approximately 15 mm. Standing water, sometimes contaminated with low levels of radioactivity, is present in approximately half of the containers at the tops of stacks. In containers at the tops of stacks, organic matter (principally leaf mould) has accumulated beneath many open grout ports, with vegetation growing from some grout ports. Corrosion, sometimes fully penetrating, is present in some container lids at the tops of stacks…”

nuclear marianne kirkbyOn this site, earlier this month, there was a report by Marianne Birkby who lives in the area and is spokesperson for Radiation Free Lakeland, a voluntary organisation of local activists giving their own time and expertise freely. She highlighted the fact that the BBC helicopter relaying images of the devastation avoided showing areas in which nuclear installations are located: Sellafield, Drigg, Lillyhall and the proposed new nuclear plant on the river Ehen floodplain, Moorside.

There is a petition: LOCK THE GATE ON DRIGG and Marianne says that a letter to Cumbria County Council would also be fantastic.

“We need to tell our elected representatives at local and national level that there is no “away” for radioactive wastes. In a finite world there is no infinite *dilution* of radioactive wastes”.

She invites readers to write to the Leader of Cumbria County Council, Stuart Young: – and if you have time to the Cabinet members via Democratic Services:

Bad decisions by government 30: support for polluting industries – GM crops, nuclear power and waste-burning

Today the BBC reports that ‘executive members’ representing three Lake District councils will vote on whether to search for a site for an underground repository in which to store high level nuclear waste. Cumbria is the only area still considering such a facility. Construction is not expected to begin before 2025.

Radiation Free Lakeland, opposing the building of a repository, say that any intended facility would be as large as the city as Carlisle and as deep as Scafell is high.

The Unite union representing Sellafield Workers said that 12,000 jobs at Sellafield depended on the industry, with thousands more in the local supply chain.

In February a Chinese delegation of nuclear decision-makers from the commercial and policy sectors will visit Britain for a week of meetings with UK decommissioning and waste management ‘supremos’.

Young minds train for a nuclear future

Nuclear future young mindsHitachi has signed a £700m deal to buy Horizon Nuclear Power from its German owners and is planning to build reactors at Wylfa on Anglesey, north Wales, and Oldbury in Gloucestershire, a county also threatened with the imposition of a large incinerator.

The paragraph headline was seen in the Stroud News and Journal. Can we find no better engineering alternatives for these young people who have entered apprenticeships? The words of their MP, Neil Carmichael, an ardent proponent of the nuclear industry, were reported in Hansard: “Locally in Gloucestershire, as well as through the national training academy for nuclear, we are working hard to ensure that we have sufficient skills—and retain those skills—ready for nuclear new build”.

Hold to the Precautionary Principle

The European Environment Agency Report No 1/2013, Late lessons from early warnings, from a broad range of external authors and peer reviewers, contains case studies covering a range of chemical and technological innovations and highlighting a number of systemic problems. The second volume investigates specific cases where danger signals have gone unheeded, in some cases leading to death, illness and environmental destruction.

The ‘Late Lessons Project’ illustrates how damaging and costly the misuse or neglect of the precautionary principle can be; the government should take its message to heart and rethink their support for GM crops, nuclear power and waste-burning industries.