Living Seas: Do Not Collaborate With Seismic Testing for Sub-Sea Nuclear Dump Plan

Updated: May 10


The following letter has been sent today to Living Seas/The Wildlife Trusts,




Dear Joan Edwards OBE, Director of Living Seas, We are a nuclear safety group in Cumbria and fully support the Wildlife Trusts important Living Seas work in campaigning for and gaining Marine Protected Areas including in the Irish Sea off the coast of Copeland. On April 20th 2022 we were alarmed to see the first public notification on a Nuclear Waste Services sponsored website that a seismic survey is due to be carried out in the Irish Sea off the coast of Cumbria. This seismic survey of airgun blasting every 10 seconds for 4 weeks is to test the geology for deep subsea vaults for the “disposal” of heat generating nuclear wastes. There is very little information about this plan available to the public. All we know is that Shearwater GeoServices who specialise in oil and gas exploitation will be carrying out a seismic survey for 4 weeks in July/August and that they have been commissioned by Nuclear Waste Services along with the euphemistically named Mid and South Copeland "Community Partnerships". The community however has not had any input into whether or not this plan should go ahead with no sight of any Environmental Impact Assessments or Marine Licensing. We contacted the North Western Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority who have an office in Whitehaven but were told that they had not been consulted about the plan and that they could not see any record of any licensing of the plan with the Marine Management Organisation. Scientific report after report indicates that Seismic testing is hugely damaging to marine wildlife impacting everything from plankton to whales and for the dangerous practice to take place there must be overwhelming justification. There is no justification whatsoever for this seismic testing which is solely to enable the plan for Geological Disposal of Heat Generating Nuclear Wastes. The Irish Sea area is already burdened with waste from several decades of Sellafield's nuclear reprocessing discharges. Radioactive waste particles in their thousands are routinely found on Cumbrian beaches by the regulators and by citizen scientists. This means that any meaningful monitoring of a subsea nuclear dump would be impossible as the existing radioactive pollution would mask any new leakage from the subsea vaults of very hot (literally) nuclear wastes. Seismic testing to test the complex subsea geology for a nuclear dump is therefore unjustifiable. Despite decades of the nuclear industry operating in this area the Irish Sea is, as you know, still miraculously biodiverse. The Irish Sea’s marine wildlife needs time and space to recover from industrial pollution. Instead it is due to be first deafened and damaged by airgun blasting and then to have a 25km square heat generating nuclear dump embedded beneath. We understand that Living Seas/Cumbria Wildlife Trust will be providing a marine mammal expert to Shearwater GeoServices to be on board during the seismic testing, this is to look out for marine mammals and stop operations if any are in sight. Given that the noise from the airgun blasts travels thousands of miles from the source this is rather a fig leaf. For Living Seas/Cumbria Wildlife Trust to lend legitimacy to the unjustified seismic testing would demean all the good work that Living Seas has done. This plan is in order of magnitude far worse than for example the pile driving of wind turbines into the Irish Sea which is justified by the resulting fuel free energy. The noise from seismic testing is of a magnitude far greater than that of pile driving. In Australia after immense public outrage about seismic testing in 2020 the Senate held an Inquiry into the impact of seismic testing on fisheries and the marine environment. One clear recommendation from the Senate Inquiry⁹ is that seismic blasting doesn’t belong in marine parks, and it doesn’t belong in critical marine habitats.” In America in 2018 "Environmental groups opposed to offshore drilling sued the federal government on Tuesday to prevent future seismic tests for oil and gas deposits in Atlantic waters off the U.S. East Coast. Seismic testing, which uses air gun blasts, violates federal laws that protect marine mammals, endangered species, and national environmental policy, according the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Charleston, South Carolina, against U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and the National Marine Fisheries Service.” The Irish Times reported in 2018: "The Government has been called on to review seismic testing for oil and gas in Irish waters, following a newly-published Australian study showing such exploration techniques can destroy plankton populations. The research by the University of Tasmania and Curtin University found that air gun signals which are commonly used in marine petroleum exploration can cause a two to three-fold increase in mortality of adult and larval zooplankton". There is no justification for this seismic testing and we urge Living Seas and the Wildlife Trusts not to collaborate with Nuclear Waste Services and the "Community Partnerships" who do not actually represent any community. The community of the Irish Sea belongs to us all and to the marine wildlife it should be a sanctuary not a nuclear sacrifice zone. Please Save the Whale and the Snail and Take Action to Stop the Seismic Testing for a Nuclear Dump. Thank you yours sincerely, Marianne Birkby Lakes Against Nuclear Dump - a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign Petition https://www.change.org/p/save-the-whale-and-the-snail-stop-nuclear-waste-services-blasting-the-irish-sea More Information "Surveys are due to take place off the coast of Mid and South Copeland for around three – four weeks this summer between July and August to deepen understanding about the nature of the deep rocks beyond the coast. This is part of the work required within the siting process for the underground elements of a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF)." Mid-Copeland Partnership https://midcopeland.workinginpartnership.org.uk/marine-geophysical-surveys-interview-with-the-project-manager/ "Seismic airguns create one of the loudest manmade sounds in the ocean. During seismic surveys, ships pull large arrays of airguns that release loud pressurized blasts of air through the ocean and into the seafloor. Noise from airguns can disturb, injure or kill marine animals from zooplankton, the base of the food web, to large whales. " Oceana https://oceana.org/seismic-airgun-blasting-overview/ Sellafield (Radioactive) Particles Whats the Story? by the Environment Agency https://territories.eu/assets/files/dissemination-presentations/oxford-2019/CS03_Trevor%20Howards_EA%20UK.pdf Record number of radioactive particles found on the beaches near Sellafield https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/jul/04/radioactive-particles-beaches-sellafield The Guardian "investigation initially focuses on the deep geology within the inshore area up to 22km beyond the coast." Mid-Copeland Community Partnership https://midcopeland.workinginpartnership.org.uk/finding-a-suitable-site/ Australia https://www.marineconservation.org.au/what-is-seismic-blasting/ US Government Sued Over Seismic Testing https://www.oedigital.com/news/460645-us-government-sued-over-atlantic-seismic-testing Irish Times https://www.irishtimes.com/news/environment/new-research-finds-seismic-testing-for-oil-and-gas-at-sea-can-destroy-plankton-1.3432997


NOTE: Cumbria Wildlife Trust/Living Seas North West have been in contact to say that they will not be providing a marine mammal observer and that they share concerns about the seismic testing plan and have contacted Nuclear Waste Services to express concerns. We hope that Cumbria Wildlife Trust will alert their membership to the plan and campaign against seismic testing ...seismic testing would be the start of a long term assault on the Irish Sea in order to deliver a deep nuclear dump

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