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The UK is searching the sea for a nuclear dump site with huge risks to marine life

 ”Protections clearly mean nothing when the nuclear waste industry wants to pave the way to a deep nuclear dump.”

By Charlie Jaay  •  euro news green,  22/06/2022

A new report delivers a damning verdict on the proposed seismic blasting in the Irish Sea.

The UK government’s Nuclear Waste Services (NWS) is set to carry out seismic surveys off the Cumbrian Coast between July and August this year. 

They are looking for a place to dispose of the waste produced by Britain’s nuclear reactors.

The report, commissioned by Radiation Free Lakeland, calls for these plans to be postponed, claiming the impact assessment by NWS is “deeply inadequate” and “lacking in appropriate scientific and academic rigour”.

What is seismic blasting?

Seismic blasting is a process that allows scientists to find out more about the geography of the sea bed. Loud, repetitive blasts of sound are produced from an underwater airgun – like a powerful horn – and their echoes are measured to map the underwater rocks

The airgun will fire every 10 to 15 seconds, throughout the survey period of around one month.

The surveys, commissioned by NWS, will be looking into the possibility of locating a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF). Deep under the seabed, this facility will be used to dispose of the UK’s toxic legacy of high level nuclear waste – the highly radioactive byproducts of nuclear reactors. 

Shearwater GeoServices, the company which last year saw the high court put an end to its work on South Africa’s ecologically sensitive Wild Coast, is carrying out the investigations.

According to a freedom of information request, a licence of exemption to carry out these surveys was given to NWS for ‘scientific research’. But Radiation Free Lakeland says the survey is not for ‘scientific research’ but a plan to dispose of nuclear waste.

“We commissioned an independent report because we need to counter the PR spin from the nuclear waste industry who are calling the seismic testing ‘non-invasive scientific research,’” says Marianne Birkby, Founder of the campaign group.

She argues that, rather than seismic blasting for scientific purposes, the plans facilitate a commercial venture for a “deep nuclear dump for heat generating nuclear waste.”

A limited company that wants to enable ever more nuclear waste from new nuclear builds, Radioactive Waste Management, is behind it, Birkby claims.

“Despite the marine protections this part of the Irish Sea has, it is an outrage that independent environmental impact assessments have not been carried out. Protections clearly mean nothing when the nuclear waste industry wants to pave the way to a deep nuclear dump.”

In response to the claims, NWS says “there is no requirement to undertake a public consultation for these surveys.”……

Seismic surveys can devastate marine life

Low frequency sounds generated by a single seismic airgun can extend over large distances, particularly in deeper waters.

They have been recorded at locations up to 4,000 kilometres from the source, and can blanket areas of up to 300,000 square kilometres with noise. Studies have shown that, because seismic surveys can disturb, injure or kill a wide variety of marine life, they can impact entire ecosystems.

Zooplankton are the base of the marine food chain and are extremely important to our ocean’s health. They are also very vulnerable to these loud noises, according to scientists.

Researchers have found that seismic surveys significantly increase the death rates of zooplankton in the 1.2 kilometre range they tested, killing all larval krill in the range.

Radiation Free Lakeland’s report says the surveys will take place when zooplankton populations are expected to be high. These creatures provide a food source for a wide variety of organisms including baleen whales, basking sharks and fish which, in turn, feed many other species.

Many other marine animals rely on sound for survival too. Seismic testing can interfere with basic functions such as communication, navigation, feeding and mating.

“Noise exposure can be a problem for a wide variety of Cetaceans-dolphins, porpoises and whales,” according to the Zoological Society of London’s Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme.

“Noise related impacts have also been causally linked to many cetacean stranding and mass stranding events globally.”

The NWS investigation will focus on a survey area five to 20 kilometres off the Cumbrian coast in the north west of England in an area of approximately 250 square kilometres. The proposed GDF may extend over an area of 25 kilometres square, deep beneath the seabed.

This region is one of a number of designated Marine Conservation Zones in the Irish Sea. It has protected habitats and is home to a number of European protected species, such as sea turtles, minke whales, common and bottlenose dolphins, and harbour porpoises…………………

Marine habitats are already under huge pressure from pollution, irresponsible development and bottom trawling – as well as the consequences of climate change, she explains.  Joan Edwards. Director of Policy at the Wildlife Trusts

We are concerned about the implications of seismic testing in the Irish Sea, which evidence shows can be devastating for marine life.”

The report claims many of the hugely important marine species found in the area have not been studied for their sensitivity to seismic surveys.

A ‘marked lack of transparency’ from Nuclear Waste Services

Marine radioactivity researcher and consultant Tim Deere-Jones is the author of Radiation Free Lakeland’s report. He says that NWS’s licence application for the seismic survey is characterised by “a marked lack of transparency.”

We are concerned about the implications of seismic testing in the Irish Sea, which evidence shows can be devastating for marine life.”

The report claims many of the hugely important marine species found in the area have not been studied for their sensitivity to seismic surveys.

A ‘marked lack of transparency’ from Nuclear Waste Services

Marine radioactivity researcher and consultant Tim Deere-Jones is the author of Radiation Free Lakeland’s report. He says that NWS’s licence application for the seismic survey is characterised by “a marked lack of transparency.”

The UK government, similar to many others, favours deep geological disposal to deal with the most radioactive waste – whether deep below ground or deep beneath the seabed.

However, there are still many concerns about this £53 billion (€62 billion) facility in the Irish Sea, which has not been tried or tested and provides no guarantees of safety. https://reliefweb.int/report/world/let-us-move-towards-world-without-nuclear-weapons

June 23, 2022 - Posted by | oceans, UK, wastes

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