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Sellafield, Britain’s most dangerous building, in the decades-long process of getting its nuclear waste cleaned up.

Britain’s most dangerous building is finally to be made safe after
engineers began removing nuclear waste from an ageing silo left over from
the arms race of the Cold War. Sellafield, at the edge of the Lake District
in Cumbria, has taken the first steps in a project described as the nuclear
industry’s equivalent of putting a man on the moon.

It has spent the past
two decades searching for a solution to the seemingly intractable problem
of cleaning up 10,000 cubic metres of radioactive sludge housed inside a
concrete silo. Known as Magnox, the silo was built in the late 1950s to
receive waste from Britain’s atomic weapons development programme, as
well as its growing fleet of nuclear reactors.

Today it holds roughly 80
per cent of all of Britain’s nuclear waste. For decades the waste has
been dissolving into a highly dangerous and potentially explosive mix
within a building no longer fit for purpose, leading to it being described
as the “most hazardous building in western Europe” – a description
Sellafield itself uses.

In 2005 a leak containing 20 metric tons of uranium
and 160kg of plutonium was discovered to have escaped from one of the
containers. The Office for Nuclear Regulation, the public watchdog, has
designated the building “an intolerable risk”.

This week, the plant
removed the first batch of waste from one of the silo’s 22 compartments
using a robotic arm specially designed for the task. The radioactive
material is then encased in cement, immobilising it to prevent any leakage,
and placed inside a metal container designed to store it permanently. The
project, which has been 20 years in the making and will take an estimated
further 20 years to complete, costs roughly £2 billion a year. Phil
Hallington, head of policy at Sellafield, described the project as the
nuclear industry’s equivalent of putting a man on the moon.

 Times 16th June 2022

June 18, 2022 Posted by | decommission reactor, UK | Leave a comment

Sellafield Update 2022

nuClear News, May 2922, Executive Summary

Spent fuel from the UK’s first-generation Magnox reactors is still being reprocessed. It was
scheduled to end in 2012 to help the UK meet its international obligations to end the radioactive
pollution of the north-east Atlantic. It’s now scheduled to end later this year.
At the end of 2021, the First Generation Magnox Storage Pond (FGMSP), one of Sellafield’s most
hazardous facilities, and the Pile Fuel Storage Pond (PFSP) still contained 75% of the legacy
spent fuel which has to be removed and placed in interim storage. This degraded fuel won’t be
in interim storage until 2025. It will then have to be conditioned, and eventually transferred to
the proposed Geological Disposal Facility by 2125.

Spent fuel
The Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (THORP) has closed, and almost 5,000 tonnes of unreprocessed spent fuel from the UK’s second-generation Advanced Gas-cooled Reactors (AGRs)
will be stored in ponds at Sellafield until at least 2075. In addition, an estimated 141 tonnes of
exotic fuel will remain in storage once the Magnox reprocessing plant closes, and isn’t expected
to be in a modern interim storage facility until 2028. Sellafield is also contracted to receive and
store spent submarine fuel from the MoD.

The government has yet to decide about possible re-use or disposal of the 140 tonnes of
plutonium stored at Sellafield. Its preferred option is to re-use it in Mixed Oxide Fuel (MOX) for
nuclear reactors, but some plutonium will be unsuitable for this and will need to be immobilised
and treated as a waste for disposal. Some of the older plutonium packages and facilities are
amongst the highest hazards on the Sellafield site. All plutonium needs to be gradually transferred to a new store, and two more stores are likely to be required – one is expected to be
ready in 2033 and the second in 2040.

High Level Waste
High Level Waste (HLW) Liquors, left over after reprocessing, need to be constantly cooled
otherwise they would start to boil causing radioactivity to escape and contaminate the
surrounding environment. Conversion of these liquors into a solid form and emplacement in
storage is not expected to be complete until 2030. The solid waste will remain in storage until
‘disposal’ by 2104. All HLW belonging to overseas customers should be returned by 2025.
Levels of risk
In 2013 Sellafield was described as posing an “intolerable risk”. Then in 2018 it was reported
that “work to reduce risk and high hazard at Sellafield has taken an encouraging turn for the
better”. Since then, the site has not been much in the news, but there is still a lot of work to do,
as many of the risks remain. And the timescales for carrying out this work are simply
staggering. According to the UK Radioactive Waste Inventory decommissioning won’t be
complete until around 2090 and then all buildings won’t be demolished until 2120 – almost a
century from now. (1)

Continue reading

May 19, 2022 Posted by | safety, UK | Leave a comment

Beaches near Sellafield contaminated with radioactive particles.

 Radiation Free Lakeland has written to Cumbria Wildlife Trust asking them
to cancel the “Sea-Coastal Foraging Evening” at St Bees on 18th May.
Who doesn’t love to forage for food on the beach? The problem with
beaches near Sellafield (and not so near) is that radioactive particles are
routinely washed onto the beaches and into the abundant wild food found on
our beaches. Sellafield has blighted our coasts and continues to do so with
impunity thanks to the criminal nonchalance promoted by events like the one
organised by Cumbria Wildlife Trust. The risk to health is very real,
especially to the young and the pregnant.

 Radiation Free Lakeland 15th May 2022

May 17, 2022 Posted by | environment, UK | Leave a comment

The radioactive ‘Cumbrian mud patch’ would be shaken up by a coal mine at theSellafield site

A tsunami of radioactive wastes now largely inert (apart from tidal processes) would be resuspended in the water column – returning to the shores and to the rest of the world. It takes only 4 years for Sellafield’s seaborne waste to reach the Arctic. The coal mine would cause subsidence and resulting resuspension of nuclear wastes.

*Sellafield** A great article by Paul Brown below – there is however a big elephant in the room regarding this story. The elephant in the room is the Cumbrian Mud Patch – the radioactive silts on the Irish Sea bed resulting from decades of reprocessing. The coal mine due to be decided upon soon by Government (after Planning Inspector Stephen Normington makes his recommendation) would churn up this nuclear crapola on the seabed.

A tsunami of radioactive wastes now largely inert (apart from tidal processes) would be resuspended in the water column – returning to the shores and to the rest of the world. It takes only 4 years for Sellafield’s seaborne waste to reach the Arctic. The coal mine would cause subsidence and resulting resuspension of nuclear wastes. The coal mine would cause earthquakes.

Both these outcomes are not “likely” they are certain. The coal mine CEO is also employed
by government as advisor on the plans for a deep (and not so deep) nuclear dump for heat generating nuclear wastes – you couldn’t make it up. 

Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole 12th Feb

February 14, 2022 Posted by | oceans, UK, wastes | Leave a comment

UK close to opening coal mine under Marine Conservation Zone just 5 miles from Sellafield nuclear facility!

 The Coal Mine planning inspector Stephen Normington will, any day now, be
making his recommendation to government (the same government who have
appointed the coal boss as nuclear dump advisor). Then the final decision
will be with Secretary of State Michael Gove on whether or not to open a
new coal mine under the Marine Conservation Zone off St Bees and just five
miles from Sellafield. Concerns, aside from climate, raised by Keep
Cumbrian Coal in the Hole since 2017, regarding seismic, nuclear and marine
impacts have been well and truly ‘talked over’ despite our vehement

 Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole 5th Feb 2022

February 7, 2022 Posted by | environment, UK | Leave a comment

Coronavirus cases doubled in a few days at Sellafield nuclear site

 CORONAVIRUS cases at Sellafield have more than doubled in a week as
Omicron continues to spread rapidly throughout the county. Numbers of cases
among those employed on the site rose from 320 in the week to Wednesday 29,
up to 712 in the week to January 5.

 Carlisle News & Star 7th Jan 2022

January 8, 2022 Posted by | health, UK | Leave a comment

Plutonium found on a beach near Sellafield

 While in Cumbria on a visit hosted by Radiation Free Lakeland in 2015,
former United States Nuclear Industry Regulator Arnie Gundersen now nuclear
educator with Fairewinds took samples from the beaches. These samples were
tested back in the US. One of the samples unintentionally collected was
found in Arnie’s coat pocket. It turned out to be plutonium. “Arnie’s
time sampling near Sellafield is part of our worldwide campaign to protect
families and communities from the devasting and lasting impact of radiation
exposure. Currently, we have begun the process of researching and
documenting our Irish Sea data for another peer-reviewed journal

 Radiation Free Lakeland 27th Dec 2021

December 30, 2021 Posted by | - plutonium, UK | Leave a comment

Sellafield workers told to return home due to flood warning – (climate change hitting nuclear again?)

 NUCLEAR power plant workers are being told to return home due to heavy
rainfall flooding parts of Cumbria. A spokesman for the West Cumbrian power
plant Sellafield issued a statement online advising people to only travel
if strictly necessary.

The warning comes after the county was battered with
heavy rainfall and flooding. A spokesman for Sellafield said: “Cumbria
Police say the threat of flooding in Cumbria remains high and are advising
people to only travel if strictly necessary and to take pre-emptive action
to protect themselves.

 Whitehaven News 28th Oct 2021

October 30, 2021 Posted by | safety, UK | Leave a comment

Allowed Earth Shocks from Coal Mine Five Miles From Sellafield Would Be As Great as That from Continous Blasting….Unless…. — RADIATION FREE LAKELAND

In amongst the vast acres of NGO and press focus on climate/steel/jobs we managed to get the Inspector’s attention on seismicity near Sellafield. No mean feat considering the Secretary of State has not asked to be informed on seismic impacts or subsidence just five miles from the world’s riskiest nuclear waste site, Sellafield and the […]

Allowed Earth Shocks from Coal Mine Five Miles From Sellafield Would Be As Great as That from Continous Blasting….Unless…. — RADIATION FREE LAKELAND

October 4, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Earthquakes Stopped Fracking – So Why the Monstrous Silence On “Likely” Induced Seismicity Five Miles From Sellafield? Exactly Who is Protecting Who? — RADIATION FREE LAKELAND

Originally posted on Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole: The following letter has been sent to Cumbria County Council and the Planning Inquiry. Our trembling earth was the reason fracking was halted – the siesmic impacts from the Cumbrian Coal Mine are set to be far worse than that from fracking and yet there is…

Earthquakes Stopped Fracking – So Why the Monstrous Silence On “Likely” Induced Seismicity Five Miles From Sellafield? Exactly Who is Protecting Who? — RADIATION FREE LAKELAND

September 14, 2021 Posted by | safety, UK | Leave a comment

Earthquake risks for proposed coal mine in Cumbria, all too close to Sellafield nuclear site

Geotechnical experts have urged caution over claims from a campaign group
that the proposed Cumbrian coal mine could cause earthquakes. Before the
start of the public inquiry into the mine – which began yesterday –
campaign group Radiation Free Lakeland said that the development poses
induced earthquake and subsidence risk. The group believes that “mining
induced seismicity is likely to occur” at the coal mine, and also
emphasised that nuclear waste site Sellafield is 8km away.

“The majority
of anthropogenic-related earthquakes were caused by coal mining and the
decline in their numbers from the 1980s to the 2000s was concurrent with a
decline in UK coal production,” Radiation Free Lakeland said. “The coal
mine will induce earthquakes in the vicinity of the world’s riskiest
nuclear site – that is a given – let’s hope and pray that the massive
silence from NGOs over the nuclear elephant in the room does not give the
government (who are employing the coal boss) wriggle room to approve the
coal mine.

“We urge all those speaking against the mine at the public
inquiry to give at least a mention to the fact that this coal mine would
mine out voids faster than any previous coal mine in UK history and would
induce earthquakes and cause subsidence in the Irish Sea and Sellafield
area.” Geotechnical specialist Clive Edmonds said that “in principle,
mining can induce low magnitude, shallow depth earthquake activity”.
“Such activity has been noted in many former coal field areas where
several different depth coal seams underlying each other were extracted in
close proximity to fault lines,” he said.

However, Edmonds emphasised
that “whether and to what degree” the Cumbrian coal mine will cause
earthquake activity “will depend upon the specific mine design and
development plan over time taking account of the known regional structural

 New Civil Engineer 8th sept 2021

September 11, 2021 Posted by | safety, UK | Leave a comment

Whistleblower Exposes Sellafield Bullying – has Claim thrown out by Judge — RADIATION FREE LAKELAND

Many thanks to whistleblower Alison McDermott. Her brave actions in taking on Sellafield has exposed the decades long culture of bullying within the nuclear industry and within Sellafield.

Whistleblower Exposes Sellafield Bullying – has Claim thrown out by Judge — RADIATION FREE LAKELAND

August 9, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Repost of Sellafield nuclear accident Ireland report debunk (with unhacked [Again] shocking pictures)

…Prof Chris Busby first consulted the online NOAA Hy-Split atmospheric projection software with the same date as the EPA report and got a completely different scenario showing most of Ireland being covered with meandering waves of highly radioactive particles and gases….

REPOST due to the damning images being hacked from page again and again!! So here is the wayback link I retrieved the pics from if you find the pics missing;

Introduction by Shaun McGee (aka arclight2011)

Published exclusive to (Creative Commons applies)

2 February 2018

The Irish Sellafield nuclear accident fallout projection report has some issues, in my opinion.
In December 2016 the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published in Irish Media Sources a report on radioactive fallout from a “worse case” scenario.


At the time, I was in contact with the Irish EPA concerning new evidence that shows a larger health effect from radiation sources and I was trying to challenge the pro nuclear bias that underestimated the health and environmental problems using mechanisms from the EURATOM nuclear treaty in Europe. I have to say that the Irish EPA were forthcoming in their many responses to my inquiries but eventually we reached a stale mate as the EPA claimed that the specific Isotopes relevant to the Euratom Treaty are not to be found in Ireland with the exception of Iodine 131 which they claimed was unlikely to be a health problem. They said that other fission (from a nuclear reactor) isotopes were not found on the island of Ireland.
The 2016 report from the Irish EPA (link) shows, what I think, is a minimal dispersion of radioactive fallout with little impact to health or the environment. However, there are other reports of fallout plumes from the Sellafield site that show much worse contamination than the 2016 EPA report posits and I requested Prof Chris Busby (who had been involved with Irish activists and government groups concerning Sellafield) to do a report (Full report below) on the problems that seemed to be highlighted with the Irish EPA report.
Prof Chris Busby first consulted the online NOAA Hy-Split atmospheric projection software with the same date as the EPA report and got a completely different scenario showing most of Ireland being covered with meandering waves of highly radioactive particles and gases. He then consulted 2 other reports, one of which the Irish Government commissioned that was completed by 2014 using the European gold standard software fallout projection model that showed a large plume covering large sways of Ireland (reaching the south west coast).
It would seem that the 2016 report completely runs counter to the 2014 and earlier report as well as the Hy-Split projection whilst using the same date as the 2016 Irish report.
So the issue of the types of accident that the Irish EPA thought to be worse case scenario. A direct hit by a Meteorite was seen to be plausible but if a meteorite hit sellafield then much of the nuclear site would be lofted high into the atmosphere and more evenly spread around the globe. This would fudge the numbers for plumes that are moving nearer the ground.
No where in the report was the more likely and and more dangerous scenario of terrorists attacking the spent fuel pools causing low altitude fallout over many weeks that would cause a larger pollution incident that would effect local countries to the UK border such as Ireland, Norway etc.In fact such concerns have been reported in main stream media sources as well as government/private think tanks.

Thanks to Prof Chris Busby for taking the time off his busy schedule to compile a response to the Irish EPA report on Sellafields projected damage to Ireland.

Please feel free to leave a comment belowif you agree or disagree with any of the points raised, a discussion about this issue needs to be had.

Shaun McGee (aka arclight2011)


Conclusion to report

The EPA 2016 report is unsafe and cannot be relied upon by the public, the media or administrators. The anonymous authors have shown extraordinary bias in every aspect of the report. They made elementary mistakes in their source term listing of isotopes, by including those which had short half-lives and will clearly not have been present in any significant concentration. They omitted a whole series of nuclides which are present in the tanks and the fuel pools. They choose a source term which is demonstrably too low based on available data, they choose a worst-case accident which involves only one HAST tank and only Caesium-137. They omit mentioning the spent fuel pools which are a highly likely site of a major coolant loss and subsequent fire or explosion. Their air modelling results are extremely unusual with implausibly narrow plumes, whilst a NOAA HYSPLIT model for the same day shows a completely different dispersion covering most of highly populated Ireland. Their surface contamination levels are 200 times lower than a previous computer model by Dr Taylor, which they must have had access to, and they fail to calculate the increased levels of cancer in the exposed population. This has been rectified here.

Historic releases from Sellafield to the Irish Sea have caused measurable increases in cancer and leukemia in coastal populations of Ireland. There is no doubt that the existence of Sellafield represents a potential catastrophic danger to the Irish Republic. A serious accident there could destroy the country and also most of Britain. As the Chernobyl accident effects showed, and the Fukushima accident effects will reveal (and in the case of Thyroid cancer have revealed) the ICRP risk model is unsafe for explaining or predicting health effects from such contamination. The Authors of the EPA 2016 report should be sanctioned in some way for producing such a travesty of the real picture, especially since they will have had access to the earlier study and modelling by Peter Taylor and the details of the COSYMA model employed by him.

Christopher Busby

August 17th 2017

Using recognised plume projection software for same day


UK version given to Irish EPA for same day



The health impact on Ireland of a severe accident at Sellafield.

A criticism of the report “Potential radiological impact on Ireland of postulated severe accidents at Sellafield” Anon. (Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland: September 2016) with a re-assessment of the range of health outcomes.

Christopher Busby PhD

There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don’t know.

Donald Rumsfeld

Murphy’s Law is an adage or epigram that is typically stated as:

Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.



The nuclear complex at Sellafield in Cumbria, UK, has always represented a real danger to the Republic of Ireland. There has been and remains a chronic danger to the people of the East Coast of Ireland. First, radioactivity released from Sellafield under licence to the Irish Sea, particularly in the 1970s did not, as had been hoped, dilute and disperse in the sea, but instead became attached to sediment particles along the coasts and inlets of Ireland (e.g. Carlingford Lough, Drogheda) and the particles represented a cause of cancer and illnesses in coastal populations and those exposed through eating fish and shellfish. A court case (Herr and Ors. Vs BNFL) was supported by the Irish State and my organisation was funded by the Irish State for 3 years from 1998 to examine the contamination and health issue. Green Audit examined the cancer rates in small areas in North and mid Wales, and also in Ireland by distance from the contaminated coasts. Results were published in Busby 2006 and showed that there had been a significant 30% increase in cancer and leukemia in coastal populations of the Irish Sea [1]. The second issue of continuing interest is the danger of a serious accident at Sellafield at a time when the wind direction is from the East and airborne material passes across Ireland. This issue became more urgent and of interest to the Irish public after the Fukushima Daiichi reactor explosions and melt-downs in Japan in 2011. However, the potential outcome of such an accident had been part of a report by Peter Taylor [2] written in 1999 for McGuill and Company, the solicitors representing the Herr and Ors vs. BNFL case which was abandoned by the Irish State for reasons which remain unclear.

In September 2016, a report was produced by the EPA Office of Radiological Protection entitled Potential radiological impact on Ireland of postulated severe accidents at Sellafield. [3]. This anonymous report has serious shortcomings and errors which will be addressed here. A more realistic assessment of the potential impact of a serious accident at Sellafield on the Republic of Ireland will be presented here using the radiological risk models both of the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP, [4]) and also the Model of the European Committee on Radiation Risk (ECRR [5]).

2. The baseline assumptions of maximum release.

2.1 The EPA worst case.

The EPA report discussed some possible accidents involving releases of radionuclides. It examined some potential sources of radionuclides but not others. It chose a number of possible scenarios, but excluded others. In general terms (and referring to Murphy’s Law, appropriately in this case of Ireland) it could not assess accidents which are totally unforeseen. Therefore, also in general, we should consider a worst case-scenario in which most of the radioactivity inventory of the Sellafield site becomes airborne at a time when the weather patterns were most unfavourable for Ireland.

For example, in Busby 2007 [1] the Windscale reactor fire was examined in some detail. At the time of the fire, which continued for some days, the main releases were initially offshore towards Ireland. This is contrary to the discourse promoted by the British Radiological Protection Board in 1974. It is, however confirmed by Air Ministry historical data. But the point is that at the time a cold front laying North East to South West was moving from Ireland towards England across the Irish Sea. This meant the releases from the fire and heavy radioactive rain fell along the front. This rain fell on the Isle of Man, and historical mortality data show a large increase in the death rate after this event. There have also been reports of significant birth effects (Downs Syndrome cluster) in County Louth reported by the Irish GP Patricia Sheehan, who died in an automobile accident shortly after beginning to follow this up.

In order to estimate the effects of a worst case, initially there must be a choice of the source term, that is, the quantity and radionuclide identity of the material released to the atmosphere.

The EPA report decided that this could be modelled as the contents of one of the 21 High Active Storage Tanks (HAST). The true content of one of these is unknown, probably also to the operators BNFL. The estimate for the contents was taken from a report by Turvey and Hone [6]. This is shown in Table 1 below where I note a number of concerns. In Table 2 I provide examples of some hazardous radionuclides not listed in the EPA source term table. In Table 3 I copy the source terms used by the British 1976 Royal Commission (the Flowers Report) [7]. Note that all these estimates are for a single or multiple HAST tanks on the tank farm and exclude explosions of the spent fuel ponds which could dry up and suffer prompt criticality. This could result from a domino scenario (see below).

Table 1 EPA assumed release source term. (E-notation, thus 1 x 1014 is written 1 E+14_

Radio nuclideTotal activity BqHalf LifeComment
Zr-951.4 E+1564daysAll decayed away; almost none there
Nb-955.8 E+1435 daysDaughter of Zr-95; all decayed away; none there
Ru-1061.33 E+16366 daysAll decayed away; almost none there
Sb-1251.6 E+152.7 yearsAll decayed away; almost none there
Cs-1341.04 E+162.0 yearsAll decayed away; almost none there
Cs-1375.26 E+1730 yearsSignificant
Ce-1449.65 E+15284 daysAll decayed away; almost none there
Eu-1544.41 E+158.5yearsMinor significance now
Eu-1553.39 E+155 yearsMinor significance now
Sr-903.6 E+1728.8 yearsHighly Significant; DNA seeker
Am-2412.72 E+15432 yearsHighly Significant alpha; decays to Np-237 alpha; daughter of Plutonium-241
Cm-2424.57 E+13162 daysAll decayed away; almost none there
Cm-2431.92 E+1432 yearsHighly Significant alpha; decays to Plutonium-239, so there must be approximately the same or more Plutonium-239 (fissionable) in the mix

2.2 Concerns about the source term table of the EPA 2016 report

Table 1 gives the source terms employed by the EPA report. It lists 13 isotopes. The table is an astonishing example of bad science, produced either through bias or ignorance. Since the table is apparently taken from another report by Turvey and Hone 2000, we can perhaps blame them for the original mistakes. I have included a column showing the half-lives of their isotopes. The main concerns are as follows:

It is perfectly clear than all but four of the thirteen will have physically decayed away by 2016. For example, a half life of Zr-95 of 65 days, at 1980 would by now have had 36 x 365 days to decay. This is 202 half-lives. There would be virtually none left of the listed quantity.
A significant number of seriously hazardous radionuclides which must be in the tanks are not listed. In particular we have Plutonium-239, Plutonium- 238, Plutonium-241, Uranium and other actinide alpha emitters including Neptunium-237, Radium-226, Carbon-14 and Tritium.
The overall total activity tabulated the EPA report is about 4 times less than the quantity in a HAST tank given in the report of the UK Royal Commission 1976 (Flowers) and the 1977 Windscale Enquiry which totalled 1.8 x 1018 Becquerels of Caesium-137 plus 1.4 x 1018 Bq of Strontium-90 plus 1.1 x 1018 Bq of Ruthenium-106 [8].
Why did the EPA report reduce the quantities assumed by the earlier reports? Why did it omit the dangerous actinides Uranium, Plutonium and Neptunium with the exception of Americium-241? Why did it omit a whole range of other radionuclides like Tritium and Carbon-14?

Table 2 Some Missing isotopes from the EPA Source term with longer half-lives or present as daughters

IsotopeHalf Life
U-2384.5 E+9yAlpha
U-2357.1 E+8yAlpha
U-2342.4 E+5yAlpha
Th-2308 E+4yAlpha
Pu-2392.4 E+4yAlpha
Pu-24114.4yDecays to Am-241 listed by EPA
Np-2372.1 E+6yAm-241 daughter
Y-9064hIn equilibrium with Sr-90
H-312.3yLife component; radioactive water
C-145730yLife component

Table 3 HAST tank content according to Windscale Enquiry 1977 and Royal Commission 1976

1.8 E+18
Sr-90 + Y-90
2.8 E+18
1.1 E+18

2.3 The more accurate source terms for HAST tanks

Taylor 1999 [2] based his calculations on only Cs-137 and assumed a source term of 1 x 1018 Bq. Therefore, his results (which I will review below) should be adjusted by a factor of 1.8 on the basis of the Table 3 results, but particularly also modified upwards by the presence of the Sr-90/Y-90 and the actinides, the Plutonium, Uranium, Radium and Americium, which, though they are present in smaller quantities each carry a weighting of 20 due to their alpha biological effectiveness. Thus the quantity of 2.72 E+15 listed by EPA in Table 1 has the effect (in Sieverts) of 5.44 E+16 due to its alpha emission.

2.4 The spent fuel pools

In addition to HAST tank scenarios, there has been reported the existence [ 9: in a very dangerous state, a series of concrete spent fuel pools containing hundreds of tons of spent fuel. Loss of integrity of these tanks (drying up) would result in meltdown and prompt criticality with explosive distribution and burning of the spent fuel elements.

The approximate activity inventory of a spent fuel assembly for a Boiling Water Reactor is available from Alvarez 2014 [10] and the EIA for a Pressurized Water reactor fuel assembly from the Swedish Forsmark High Level Waste repository documents [11]. Therefore these are not exactly the same as the assemblies in the Sellafield pools. However, they will not be very different. The radioactive elements and their activity is given in Table 5 [Ref 5,6] .

Table 5 Approximate activity of an estimated 800 spent fuel assemblies in the Sellafield

per assyper 1000

Comparisons with releases from Chernobyl and Fukushima

Since all these numbers are meaningless without comparisons, Table 6 gives comparisons in terms of Cs-137, which has become a yardstick for releases, discharges and ground contamination in the last 50 years with three contamination events, Chernobyl, Fukushima and the 1950-1980 atmospheric nuclear tests. These are useful comparisons since in the cases of Chernobyl and the nuclear tests, we have evidence for the effects on human health, an issue which is discussed later.

Table 6. Contents of one HAST tank, the spent fuel pools at Sellafield with releases from Chernobyl, Fukushima and Atmospheric bomb tests.

Event/ contents
Cs-137 (Bq)
Atmospheric Nuclear weapons tests (Global)
5000 E+15
38 E+15
UNSCEAR, Busby 2013
Fukushima initial
37 E+15
Various, see Busby 2013
Fukushima contents
3000 E+15
Various, see Busby 2013
One Sellafield HAST Tank
1850 E+15
1977 Windscale Enquiry. 1976 Royal Commission (Flowers).
Sellafield Spent Fuel Pools
1000 E+15
Estimate based on photograph and Alvarez 2014
21 HAST Tanks
38850 E+15

Total Sellafield

Ireland EPA Source term
526 E+15
EPA 2016

A domino scenario

There are 21 HAST tanks which, from the 1976 Royal Commission report [2] and the 1977 Windscale enquiry [3] can be assumed to contain 50 Million Curies (1.8 x 1018 ) Becquerels of Caesium-137 plus 40 Million Curies (1.4 x 1018 Bq) of Strontium-90 plus 30 Million Curies of Ruthenium-106 (1.1 x 1018 Bq). In addition there are, of course plenty of otheradionuclides which can be added in (See Table 2). All initial scenarios involve an explosion of a single HAST tank. This would undoubtedly result in high level contamination of the whole Sellafield site, such that access of human personnel would be restricted because of the lethal radiation fields. This would affect the ability of personnel to maintain the security of the cooling systems for the other HAST tanks and the spent fuel pools. In the case of Fukushima, access to the damaged reactors and the areas surrounding them was impossible due to the lethal radiation levels. This domino effect is quite possible, having been the cause of the sequential explosions at Fukushima as one reactor after another lost cooling and melted down.

Modelling unlikely scenarios; the worst case source term

It should be noted that Uranium and Plutonium, together with other alpha emitters are not assumed to be present in the EPA source term which focuses exclusively on Cs-137. However, more than 98% of the mass of material in the spent fuel pools consists of Uranium and Plutonium, and loss of coolant there can result in prompt criticality following melt down and a Zirconium Magnesium fire. Thus a nuclear explosion as well as a radiolytic hydrogen explosion is a possibility. Since the EPA report was advertised as a worst case scenario, given Murphy’s Law, and Rumsfeld’s warning, such events should have been modelled, however the analysis shows them to have been vanishingly unlikely.

3. The baseline assumptions of exposure

3.1 The EPA dispersion model and assumptions

The EPA have employed an atmospheric dispersion model named RIMPUFF which I do not have access to. Their report chooses a specific day, 29th Nov 2010 when the wind was apparently Easterly and carried the dispersed radioactivity across Ireland. Their map of the air concentration dispersion is of interest and I copy it in Fig 1 below.

Fig 1 The EPA air modelling result for Nov 29th 2010. Caesium-137 in air (isolines 1 x 106 Bq.s/m3 and 1×107 Bq.s/m3 (hatched))


(b) Caesium-137 Surface deposition (wet) (isoline 1 x 105 Bq/m2)


The interesting feature of this model is that it shows an unrealistically narrow dispersion for the plume. In order to examine this issue further I ran the air modelling computer program of the US National Oceanographic and Aeronautic Agency NOAA HYSPLIT [12] for a number of releases from Sellafield on the same day as the EPA RIMPUFF result. NOAA HYSPLIT employs meteorological data from a number of sources and is generally accepted to be a gold-standard dispersion modelling program. None of the results I obtained were close to the results shown by the EPA report. In particular, my concern is that the very large population of Dublin is entirely spared in the EPA model, whereas in all the NOAA HYSPLIT air models I ran for that same day, Dublin was directly in the path of the release plume. I show a series of developing particle dispersion maps calculated by the HYSPLIT model for unit release at 10am on 29th November 2010 below in Fig 2. It is perfectly clear that the real plume will cross Dublin and contaminate most of Ireland.

Fig 2 (a) to (e) Sequential snapshots of position of particle plume from 24 h release beginning at 10am on 29th Nov 2010 as calculated by NOAA HYSPLIT.

  1. At 1400
  1. 12 hrs later
  1. 15 hrs later
  1. 23 hours later

(e)Time of arrival of radioactivity


I have run several HYSPLIT model simulations with both short and longer releases. None of them give anything like the narrow plume presented by the EPA report and shown in Fig 1. It is certainly possible, given time and resources to make a comprehensive study of this issue, but for the purposes of this report it is sufficient to demonstrate that there are circumstances where the whole of the Republic of Ireland will be contaminated, and that the model employed by EPA 2016 is highly questionable.

3.2 Peter Taylor 1999

Between 1998 and 2001 Green Audit was commissioned to examine the health effects of the releases from Sellafield to the Irish Sea. At the same time, and in connection with the same case Herr and Ors vs. BNFL, Peter Taylor, a British Scientist working with the Oxford Environmental Group, which also included Gordon Thompson, made a study of the worst case scenario for a Sellafield accident and contamination of the Republic of Ireland. Taylor obtained a computer model COSYMA from the European Union and modelled a release only of Caesium 137, using 1 x 1018 Bq as a source term. Tables 3 to 6 suggest that this is conservative. The report was never published but was certainly shown to the Irish State, since the work was supported by it. It should therefore have been available to those creating the 2016 EPA report. Taylors Report [ref: A Major Accident Potential at Sellafield—The impact on Ireland, 48pp] was given to me by Dr Taylor. Taylor made several computer runs for different wind directions and Pasquil categories (a measure of turbulence) producing contamination maps and predictions of precipitation.. The program divides the release point into a number of sectors. For North Easterly airflow, and Pasquil category 1A Taylor’s results are shown in Fig 3 below. The level of contamination over the whole of southern Ireland including Dublin is predicted to be about 1 x 107 Bq./m2 . Taylor argues that the high levels of peat in Ireland will result in this Cs-137 remaining on the ground for a very long time. However, what we see here is a level of contamination of 10MBq/m2 for a source term of 1 x 1018 Bq.

Fig 3. (a) Contamination map generated for easterly airflow by Taylor 1999 using COSYMA program. Blue line represents boundary of contamination. (b) area contamination by distance from source.


(3b) Contamination levels by distance from Sellafield (km)


3. 3 Cs-137 contamination: comparing Taylor and EPA 2016

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June 19, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Chernobyl nuclear tomb will eventually collapse. Sellafield, too, will need £132 billion, at least, to decommission.

LADBible 15th May 2021, A scientist has warned that Chernobyl nuclear power plant must be dismantled in the next 100 years or else it will collapse.

Professor Neil Hyatt is the Royal Academy of Engineering and Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s research chair in radioactive waste management. Speaking to LADbible about recent developments that nuclear reactions had been detected from deep within the mummified plant – 35 years after its core exploded in what is widely viewed as history’s worst nuclear disaster – he says it’s time to act.

“If we don’t take it down, it’s going to fall down,” says Professor Hyatt, who teaches at Sheffield University. “The original shelter was built as a temporary facility to stabilise a situation and the New Safe Confinement is essentially the same thing – to buy us time. [But] it only buys us around 100 years or so.

“If you think about nuclear decommissioning, which I do all the time, look at the projects that are going on around the world. “There’s the Sellafield site in the UK – that’s one hundred years to decommission the Sellafield site at a cost of £132 billion, at least. “That probably tells you it’s going to take at least 50 years, if we started today, probably at a cost of about £900 million, to decommission Chernobyl.

“These are orders of magnitude, and the reason is because we still don’t know everything we need to know to decommission it, about the material inside.” He adds: “If we don’t take it down, it’s gonna collapse eventually. If you’ve bought yourself 100 years, you really need to start cracking on with the dismantling – probably in the next 20 years.

May 17, 2021 Posted by | decommission reactor, Ukraine | 1 Comment

Sellafield’s plutonium waste has continued to circulate in the Irish Sea

  Plutonium Remobilisation in the Irish Sea, No2Nuclear Power No 132 May 2021,  Low-level aqueous radioactive waste has been discharged from the Sellafield site into the Irish Sea for more than 50 years. Originally it was thought that soluble radionuclides discharged from Sellafield (such as caesium and tritium) would be diluted and dispersed whereas long lived, transuranic nuclides such as Plutonium, and Americium would leach out of the liquid phase and become preferentially adsorbed to the surface of sedimentary particles in the water column, sink to the seabed and remain permanently bound and immobilised in seabed deposits and therefore isolated from human populations and the environment.

Unfortunately, it has since emerged that a proportion of such sediment associated radioactivity has, and is being actively transported around the Irish Sea while the remainder is temporarily “sequestered” in the seabed but subject to any future disturbance mechanisms such as storm, wave and seismic activity. In addition, a proportion of dissolved nuclides did not necessarily remain dissolved in liquid form in the water column, but could become incorporated into organic particles and deposited into sedimentary environments where they could be temporarily sequestered, but subsequently recycled back into the environment by dredging, trawling storm and seismic activity. 

Plans by West Cumbria Mining (WCM) for an under-seabed coal mine off the coast of Cumbria near Whitehaven and the possibility of a Geological Disposal Facility, also under the seabed off the coast of Cumbria have raised concerns that transuranic radionuclides currently sequestered in Irish Sea sediments could be further remobilised as a result of these activities,

 A large proportion of the Sellafield-derived radionuclides disposed to sea have become associated with the sediment at two sites close to the waste disposal pipeline: the Irish Sea Mudpatch and the Esk Estuary. The Mudpatch is a belt of fine-grained sediments located about10 km from the waste pipeline.   

In 1999 Kershaw et al showed evidence that sediment-bound radionuclides over the previous decade were being redistributed. There was a decrease in the coastal zone around Sellafield and increases in Liverpool Bay and the western Irish Sea. Levels of dissolved 239/240Pu in the water column decreased only slowly since the peak discharge rates in the 1970s and much more slowly than the drop in Sellafield discharges. This suggests that material is moving from contaminated sediments and becoming dissolved in seawater where it is available for transport. Indeed, in the western Irish Sea, evidence has been found that 239/240Pu is being transported from the eastern Irish Sea. There is also evidence of the direct transport of contaminated sediment. (1) 

Daisy Ray et al. highlight the fact that “once mobilised, the radionuclides can be transported elsewhere in the Irish Sea … Although waste discharges are continuing to decrease from the Sellafield site, the Mudpatch may continue to supply “historic” Sellafield-derived radionuclides to other locations. Indeed, recent data from Welsh and Scottish coastal areas suggest that the Mudpatch still acts as a source of radionuclides to UK coastal areas.” (2) 

The model developed by Aldridge et al. at the Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) in 2003 strongly suggest that the principal source of 239/240Pu in the Irish Sea was sediments in the eastern Irish Sea contaminated from past discharges, rather than new inputs from Sellafield. (3) Radionuclide re-distribution can occur by two principal mechanisms. Directly, by the transport of contaminated sediment, or indirectly via exchange and transport in dissolved form (dissolution). The latter process operates when tidal, wind or trawling activity re-suspends bed material allowing transfer of radionuclides to the water column. (4) 

Ray el al. also suggest that bioturbation – the reworking of soils and sediments by animals or plants – at the Cumbrian Mudpatch will continue to act as a source of “historic” Sellafieldderived radioactivity to the UK Coastal Environment. If this redistribution of historical discharges of radionuclides is happening by natural processes, it can be assumed that the problem could become much more serious as a result of human mining activities under the seabed, 
A recent report by Marine Consultant, Tim Deere-Jones concludes that:     

  It is evident that any subsidence within the WCM designated seabed mining zone will generate some form and degree of seabed morphological distortion. It is equally evident that any such seabed distortion will remobilise previously sequestered seabed sediments, and their associated pollutants, which will subsequently be transported and re-distributed through the regional marine and coastal environments. It is inevitable that such re-mobilisation and re-distribution will expose marine wildlife and human coastal populations and stakeholders to some degree of exposure doses to those pollutants via a number of mechanisms and pathways.” (5)

May 13, 2021 Posted by | - plutonium, Ireland | 1 Comment