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Calls for Halt into Nuclear Waste Service's Seismic Blasting Following Marine Deaths



25th April 2023

photo credit: Ian Finlinson



Marine Deaths of harbour porpoise, dolphin, pilot whale, seals and other protected species following last August’s seismic blasting looking at the geology of the Irish Sea for a deep sub-sea nuclear dump have prompted calls for a halt and an investigation.

A legal challenge has been threatened by campaigners against further seismic blasting in the search areas which include the Irish Sea and Allerdale’s Solway Firth area. The Copeland seismic blasting went ahead for 20 days from the 1st August 2022 despite a petiton of over 50,000 signatures. The testing of the Copeland Irish Sea area centred off Sellafield was contracted by Nuclear Waste Services in their quest to find a place to dispose of high level nuclear wastes in a Geological Disposal Facility.

Environmental Lawyers Leigh Day acting for Lakes Against Nuclear Dump, a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign have now written to the Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey and to the Marine Management Organisation.

The letter includes an Appendix of “Events” beginning with strandings of protected species including dead seals and harbour porpoise at Drigg on the 8th August and includes deaths of dolphin, pilot whale and jellyfish (food for protected turtle species).

The letter highlights that Nuclear Waste Services assured the Marine Management Organisation that testing would be carried out in July to mitigate disturbance to marine species and this was the basis for approval : “The Applicant (NWS) is proposing to undertake the survey in July and has clearly stated that regardless of weather conditions, the survey will only take place during this month, over a maximum period of 20 days.” Similar conclusions were reached by the Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) in respect of the impact of underwater noise on marine wildlife.

Marianne Birkby of Lakes Against Nuclear Dump said “as well as the reckless timing of the seismic blasting, the blasts of sound from the airguns were every 5 seconds rather than 10 seconds (as for oil,gas and wind exploration). This would have been an intolerable wall of deafening sound for Irish Sea marine life over 20 days. We are urging an investigation into the deaths of marine species following NWS seismic blasting and call for a halt into further NWS contracts for “investigation.”

The Leigh Day letter concludes with:


  1. We are extremely concerned that the Survey may have been causative (at least in part) of the Events, given:

    • the Events happened immediately after the Survey and in exactly the same geographical area; and

    • NWS was aware that the Survey was likely to disturb exactly the same species that were killed as part of the Events (namely common dolphin, harbour porpoise and whale).

  2. Consequently, we ask for the following urgent confirmation, namely that:

    • the Secretary of State will immediately initiate an investigation into the Events (the Investigation”);

    • the MMO will issue a stop notice prohibiting any future survey activities by the NWS relating to the siting process for a GDF, pending the outcome of the Investigation and/or the NWS obtaining a marine licence for those activities.

Further request for information

  1. In view of the circumstances and duties outlined above, and the reported Events contained in Annex 1, please explain (in addition to answering the questions in bold above):

    1. What steps the Secretary of State and/or Marine Management Organisation are taking to investigate the Events;

    2. What monitoring arrangements the Secretary of State has made to satisfy its duties under reg.50, 52 and 53 of the Habitats Regulations and how these have been actioned in relation to the Events;

    3. What steps the MMO has undertaken to assure itself that the EPSL for the Survey, including any conditions placed on it, has been complied with;

    4. What steps have been, or are being, taken to confirm whether the number of deaths of animals linked to the Events has affected, or has the potential to affect, the population levels, and therefore, favourable conservation status of any protected species; and

    5. What, if any, further consultations or assessments the MMO or Secretary of State has carried out in order to reassure themselves that the impacts of the Survey period changing from July to August 2022 would not affect species at a favourable conservation status.

  2. Please also provide:

i. A copy of any reports, published as per the MMO’s duties under reg.55(15) and (16),

which specifies the supervisory conditions taken to check that the required conditions of the EPSL for the Survey have been complied with, any monitoring that has been carried

out of compliance with the conditions of the licence, and the results of any monitoring;

  1. A copy of any documents demonstrating the MMO’s decision not to include all the EPSL conditions recommended by Natural England;

  2. A copy of any records kept during the Survey, including (but not limited to) the marine mammal recording form as per the Guidance;

  3. All data you hold on similar strandings to the Events which have occurred in the last 10 years in the same geographical area as the area in which the NWS is carrying out surveys in relation to the siting process for a GDF;

  4. A copy of annual reports published by CSIP since 2018;

  5. Details (including time, location and any related documentation) of any upcoming surveys the NWS proposes to undertake in relation to the siting process for a GDF; and

  6. Any documents evidencing how the UK is implementing the aims of ASCOBAN.

Next steps

  1. If you do not provide a satisfactory response by the requested deadline, we will advise our client on whether to send a formal pre-action protocol letter for judicial review.



Leigh Day Letter and Appendix Listing Events - attached



Seismic testing for nuclear disposal risks harming marine life by Charlie Jaay

UK Gov News - Marine Geophysical Survey Successfully Completed

145 views2 comments


* The date for complete collapse of ocean life due to pollution and overfishing = 2048 (1)

* 70 % of earth's oxygen produced by marine plants (2)

* without oxygen were are dead (no data needed)

* why then, are we even considering polluting the oceans even faster?

(1 ) (2 )


Renée Kern
Renée Kern
May 04, 2023

We must not let our government think that our seas are a dumping ground for toxic nuclear waste, any attempt to do so must be stopped now.

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