Updated: Aug 27
One of the warning signs put up by campaigners and removed by St Bees Parish Council
Cumbria Wildlife Trust and Living Seas North West are once again holding events at beaches blighted with radioactive waste from Sellafield. Once again they are asked if they are not willing to forgo the fundraising events then at least warn young families of the risks they take. This continued blind eye to radioactive dangers from those encouraging young families to spend hours on the beaches serves the nuclear industry very well. As well as contacting CWT the press have been sent the following...
Young families are being warned to stay away from the Living Seas North West “SeaFest” event at St Bees which boasts “fun for all the family at SeaFest, our celebration of marine wildlife and sustainable seafood.”
Longtime opponent of the use of beaches near Sellafield for family events and founder of Radiation Free Lakeland, Marianne Birkby has contacted Living Seas Northwest urging the organisers to cancel the event or at least warn families of the “low risk” of swallowing or breathing in radioactive materials. Campaigners have over the last few years carried out a citizen science project which has seen radioactive wastes turn up in almost one third of all their randomly selected samples of sand and silt. Previous years have seen campaigners post their own warning signs up on the beaches only to be immediately ripped down by the Parish Council.
Campaigners point out that Sellafield tell the public that radioactive wastes from this “clean” industry washing up on Cumbrian beaches are “historic”. Campaigners say however that "it is unacceptable for the public to encounter” any man-made radioactive particles at all on public beaches let alone being able to find them, as we have, without monitoring equipment amongst the sand castles and crabs" Sellafield’s historic discharge is embedded within silts called the “Cumbrian (or Sellafield) Mud Patch. Resuspension of radioactive particles is caused naturally by tidal action- especially storm surges, and natural and man-made disruption to the seabed. This south and north west movement from the Cumbrian/Sellafield Mud Patch has been recently illustrated by an Internship document prepared under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Energy by Lawrence Livermore National Security. "In 1952, Sellafield (a nuclear reprocessing plant in the UK) authorized the discharge of low-level radioactive effluents via pipeline into the Irish Sea. These effluents consisted of radionuclides such as Am, Cs, Pu, Tc, U and Np. Overtime, the radionuclides mobilized and accumulated onto a nearby fine-grained Mud-patch in the Irish Sea. The radionuclides then redispersed via sedimentary deposition from the Mud Patch along the coast…”
Marianne Birkby who runs the Lakes Against Nuclear Dump website has said “Our citizen science findings indicate that the radioactive wastes are far from historic. Cs 134 has been found to be present along with Americium 241. Cs-134 has a short half life of only 2 years. It usually appears (at first) in similar amounts as Cs-137, as both are fission wastes. This implies that this Cs-134 was produced in a reactor about eight years ago. With regard impact on human health cesium–134 (Cs-134) is extremely serious along with cesium-137 (Cs-137) the longer lived isotope which also present on Cumbrian beaches. In nature, cesium exists only as a non-radioactive (or stable) isotope known as cesium-133. Americium 241 does not exist in nature. We urge Living Seas Northwest if not willing to forego the family beach events at St Bees – at least to warn families that radioactive wastes continue to wash up on the beaches.” The UK Health Security Agency have stated the risk of the public encountering a radioactive particle is “very low” but this is contested by citizen scientists who say the ongoing risks are unacceptable and set to increase with new development plans such as the coal mine and Geological Disposal Facility for heat generating nuclear wastes both of which would cause likely disruption to the fragile Cumbrian Mud Patch through subsidence and induced earthquakes. Campaigners point out that children and young women of childbearing age are most at risk of health impacts from encountering a radioactive particle. "Inadvertent ingestion of a particle will result in the absorption to blood of a small proportion of the radionuclide content of the particle. The subsequent retention of radionuclides in body organs and tissues presents a potential risk of the development of cancer.” Health risks from radioactive particles on Cumbrian beaches near the Sellafield nuclear site by John D Harrison et al 2023
Campaigners will continue to lobby the UK Health Security Agency with ongoing concerns.
Cumbria Wildlife Trust - Festival of the Sea https://www.cumbriawildlifetrust.org.uk/news/popular-festival-sea-returns-st-bees-beach
Living Seas North West https://www.livingseasnw.org.uk/
Sellafield Radioactive Particle Monitoring and retrieval (which stops in summer) 2022 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1130607/Particles_in_the_Environment_Update_for_Q4_2022_ISSUED.pdf
Worcester Report with Cumbrian Citizen Scientists https://web.wpi.edu/Pubs/E-project/Available/E-project-042818-163234/unrestricted/IQP_Report.pdf
Plutonium Migration from Estuary Sediments - DOE-FIU SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM 2019 https://fellows.fiu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Zengotita-2019-Summer-Internship-Tech-Report.pdf
Health risks from radioactive particles on Cumbrian beaches near the Sellafield nuclear site John D Harrison et al 2023 J. Radiol. Prot. 43 031504 https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1361-6498/acdfd6/pdf