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A view of the Sellafield a nuclear reprocessing site from the Drigg beach in Cumbria. (Photo: Ashley Coates/cc/flickr)

A view of the Sellafield a nuclear reprocessing site from the Drigg beach in Cumbria. (Photo: Ashley Coates/cc/flickr)

The Forecast for UK's Coast: Radioactive

Environment Agency warns "the expected evolution scenario" for nuclear dump in Cumbria is flooding, erosion

Andrea Germanos

New revelations reveal a near certain threat of flooding and erosion that will cause radioactive pollution from a coastal nuclear waste dump in the UK.

In operation since 1959, the Low Level Waste Repository (LLWR) near Drigg in Cumbria houses nuclear waste from the nearby Sellafield nuclear reprocessing site in addition to military, hospital and oil industry nuclear waste.

An Environment Agency (EA) document dated 9 January 2014 and provided to the Guardian states, "It is doubtful whether the location of the LLWR site would be chosen for a new facility for near-surface radioactive waste disposal if the choice were being made now," and adds that leaking onto the shoreline from the dump will happen "a few hundred to a few thousand years from now."

More shoreline-battering storms and rising sea levels are "the expected evolution scenario," it states.

The document further warns of "the potential appearance on the beach and in its accessible surroundings, during the process of erosion, of discrete items carrying a significant burden of radioactivity individually."

The Guardian's reporting on the document follows the same warnings of "erosion and inundation" at the nuclear dump as reported by the UK's Independent in February.

From the Independent:

[EA] has asked the private sector consortium led by the US engineering firm URS, which is contracted to manage the LLWR to 2018, to look into the long-term need for additional flood defences and the feasibility of building these. [...]

Although the site is considered safe for the next 100 years, there is already a risk of flooding to the southern area of the site. The Environment Agency wants, as a precaution, to make sure that no action is taken at the LLWR that would prevent the future installation of flood defences. A source close to the agency said that the operators of the LLWR had been asked "to consider long-term coastal erosion at the site".

In a 19-page briefing pack given to delegates at a workshop during the consultation, which ended last week, the agency admitted that a recent study showed that "in the future there may be increased risk of flooding to some areas of the site". Ultimately, it predicted "erosion and inundation" of the Drigg dump, although the situation was unlikely to be severe for hundreds of years.

"This is a betrayal," said Peter Cranie, the North West Green Party’s European Election candidate, in a statement issued Monday denouncing the news of the Cumbrian coast's future radioactive contamination.

"Cumbrians have been consistently told that the risks were low and that nuclear power would be safe. There is no argument any more – nuclear power was not, is not and will not be safe for Cumbria. Future generations will pay the price for the bad decisions made," Cranie stated.

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