#DriggLockTheGate: letter to Cumbria County Council

DRIGG between the sea Irish and the river Irt
Drigg Low Level Waste Repository (Nuclear Waste Dump) between the Irish Sea and the River Irt.

Please write to Cumbria County Council (see letter below for ideas, make it as short or long as you like) and oppose the expansion of Drigg – it is a uniquely vulnerable nuclear waste dump.

Write to: to Cumbria County Council at : developmentcontrol@cumbria.gov.uk

Application 4/11/9007 Low Level Waste Repository Site Optimisation and Closure Works.

There is also a petition here: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/lock-the-gate-on-drigg-the-uks-nuclear-waste-site
Sent Wednesday 30th December 2015 to Cumbria County Councillors

Dear Cumbria County Councillors,
Early in 2016 (date tbc) Cumbria County Council will be considering the
plan to extend Drigg nuclear waste site. “Planning Application 4/11/9007
Low Level Waste Repository Site Optimisation and Closure Works.” Below
are just a few of the many reasons why Cumbria County Council must
question the assumption that Drigg should continue to accept radioactive

1. CLOSURE: The statement “closure works” is hugely misleading. The date for “closure” is set at 2079. So Drigg would continue to accept nuclear waste until that time. The site would be “capped.” Again this is
misleading and to “cap” a nuclear dump is akin to putting a cap on a fizzy
lemonade bottle while there are holes in the bottom of the bottle. The
site will continue to leach aqueous emissions to groundwater and gaseous
emissions to air for thousands of years.

2. LOW LEVEL: This suggests that the waste at Drigg is low risk and
short lived. Neither is true. As the University of Reading has pointed
out: “The Drigg site uses two disposal systems: 1) An original system
operated from 1959 (?)  to 1988 comprising a series of parallel trenches
excavated into glacial clays, back filled with LLW and covered with an
interim water resistant cap. 2) Current disposal of compacted waste placed
in steel ISO-freight containers, with void space filled with highly fluid
cement based grout. These containers are then disposed of in a series of
open concrete vaults. Drigg LLW contains a large proportion of cellulosic
waste together with disposed steel and contaminated soil. Radionuclides
with highest activities in the inventory include 3H, 241Pu, 137Cs, 234U
and 90Sr. The long-lived radionuclides 238U and 232Th have the highest
molal concentration.” 232Th has a half life comparable to the age of the
universe. http://centaur.reading.ac.uk/16608/1/mrspaper.pdf

3. RADIOACTIVE FLY TIPPING: The chemical and nuclear dump site has moved on from the years 1940 to 1988 when chemical and radioactive waste (including an experimental nuclear reactor from the University of London and fire engine from the Windscale fire) was tipped into trenches. Now the waste is compacted into steel shipping containers filled with cement. Incredibly the containers are stacked high. In 2013 the LLW management wrote: “In Group 2 containers at the tops of stacks, the external capping grout has undergone extensive physical degradation and settlement; the lids are not full of grout, and the grout is generally heavily
cracked. The state of the capping grout in underlying layers is better;
most containers only show sparse cracking and typical settlement in the
lid is approximately 15 mm. Standing water, sometimes contaminated with low levels of radioactivity, is present in approximately half of the
containers at the tops of stacks. As expected, standing water is absent in
containers from lower levels in Vault 8. In containers at the tops of
stacks, organic matter (principally leaf mould) has accumulated beneath
many open grout ports, with vegetation growing from some grout ports. As expected, vegetation is absent on the lids of underlying containers, with the exception of moss identified on one lid. Corrosion, sometimes fully penetrating, is present in some container lids at the tops of stacks…”

4. FLOODWATER AND SEA INUNDATION: “The Environment Agency has given a formal view that “the potential for disruption of the site is an
acceptable risk” By “disruption of the site” they mean inundation by
sea and flood. We would hope that Cumbria County Council do not agree
that the real and present threat of inundation of the Drigg site by flood
or by sea is in any way an acceptable risk to the people of Cumbria or our
international neighbours.

5. MONITORING: We understand that as with Lillyhall radioactive landfill
and now the 300 boreholes on the ‘Moorside’ site, the Environment Agency relies largely on reporting from the industry. This is not acceptable and Radiation Free Lakeland have repeatedly asked for the reinstatement of at least some truly independent monitoring of nuclear sites in Cumbria and Lancashire. The same companies running nuclear landfill sites are also responsible for the Sellafield site and decommissioning. This self-regulation is a clear conflict of interest, which protects the industry rather than the public.

6. COLLAPSE: The catastrophic collapse in 1985 of the largest black-headed gull breeding colony in Europe on the Drigg dunes has never been satisfactorily explained. The finger of suspicion was pointed at nuclear waste but officially the explanation was that it was a hungry fox. This explanation holds about as much water as the latest hypothesis that the excess of leukaemia’s and radiation linked diseases is linked to the influx of people firstly to Drigg’s Royal Ordnance Factory and then to Sellafield’s
ROF during the 1940s production of explosives. “Such unusual mixing of
urban and rural populations would promote what is, in fact, central for an
infective epidemic, namely increased contacts between infected and
susceptible individuals (the latter being more prevalent in rural areas)
and it led to the (infective) population mixing (PM) hypothesis of
childhood leukemia particularly below age five.” The author L Kinlen
writing in the British Journal of Cancer in 2006 goes on to say: “During
1940, about 4000 construction workers were employed at Royal Ordnance
Factory Drigg and a similar number later at ROF Sellafield. When complete, the two ROFs employed almost 3000 workers, with much of the production workforce recruited initially from the local construction workforce; from mid-1942, women played an increasingly large role. TNT production ceased in August 1945” In conclusion: In “ the excess of childhood leukaemia in west Cumbria associated with the ROFs at Drigg, Sellafield and Bootle during the Second World War, especially in their overlapping construction-production period, accords with an earlier study of large rural construction projects and with the broader evidence that marked rural–urban population mixing increases childhood leukaemia risk, particularly below age five. It is not surprising that the excess is
apparent in the wider area where the local workers largely lived rather
than in Seascale, for in contrast to the major effects on it of the
post-war nuclear facility at Sellafield, this village was little affected
by the factories”. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC236048

7. New nuclear build at Moorside just a few miles from Drigg would of
course mean a huge influx of people to a remote area. Whether you believe
the population mixing theory or not the result is the same…excess
radiation linked diseases. ‘Moorside’ would also as night follows day
require the building of many more Drigg “LLW” nuclear dumps.

Radiation Free Lakeland urge Cumbria County Council to oppose the
extension of the Drigg nuclear dump. The site is already uniquely
dangerous and all effort should now be put into containment of existing
wastes, monitoring, sea and river defences to ensure that the radioactive
waste is not breached. At the moment the site deliberately dumps
radioactive wastes to the Irish Sea from the equivalent of septic tanks
called Marine Holding Tanks. To describe the site as a “Repository” is
ludicrously euphemistic. It is a leaking nuclear dump. “Refurbishment of
the leachate drainage system was completed in early 1991 to allow improved leachate monitoring and controlled discharge direct to the Irish Sea, rather than via the Drigg Stream and River Irt.
Leachate from each trench and water collected in Vault 8 were routed by
gravity flow to a common point and then to the Marine Holding Tanks (MHT) on the western edge of the site where it was held pending automated discharge. The Marine Pipeline follows the route of the (1940s) ROF Marine Pipeline. The leachate was flow-proportionally sampled and pumped direct to the Irish Sea through a marine outfall. The Marine Pipeline is buried beneath the beach and seabed, discharging to sea through three diffusers about 1.2 km offshore. Discharges via the Marine
Pipeline were commenced subject to regulatory review of the assessment of the radiological impacts. This assessment took account of return of
activity to shore, including sediment deposition and contamination of the
terrestrial environment in the Ravenglass Estuary. Until mid-1997, discharges from the MHT were controlled to occur about the
time of high tide conditions. However, following dispersion tests at sea
which showed dilution was not significantly different at low tide, tidal
conditions are no longer a determinant of discharge phasing”.

With all best wishes for 2016
Yours sincerely,

Marianne Birkby
On behalf of Radiation Free Lakeland

Disappearing Trick: Birds and Nuclear Waste



Imagine you are stood on sand dunes between the mountains and the sea. Above your head a sky full of thousands of elegant wheeling birds from terns to black headed gulls. “The birds, which at a distance cover the ground like white dots, rise in a mass into the air. It is difficult to tread between the nests..” This is a description from The Spectator written in 1902.

The writer continues: “The nesting colonies of sea birds are commonly stinking places ; but here the pure dry sand disinfected the guano, and absorbed any scraps of wasted food. As you walked across the links towards the place where they descended at a steep angle to the shore, fresh birds always rose as sand-ridge after sand-ridge was crossed. ..Such a place affords a delightful spectacle to a naturalist. The grey sea, the long row of yellow sand hills, the distant Cumbrian Mountains, the deafening, shrill music from the clouds of birds, make you feel like a traveller landing upon some unexplored island.” The Ravenglass Gullery stretched along miles of sand dunes to Drigg and was even thought to have provided eggs for the Roman Fort at Ravenglass. Up until 1958 thousands of black headed gulls eggs from the gullery were harvested at a time in basketfuls and sold in London. The black headed gull is now on the amber list.


By 1983 there was a huge decline in numbers of waterfowl, waders and gulls in the Ravenglass estuary. This decline was most apparent in the black headed gull population nesting on the Drigg dunes. The gullery failed catastrophically going from over 10,000 pairs in 1976 to the site being abandoned in 1984. The finger of suspicion fell on radioactive waste discharges from Sellafield: “Since 1983, concern has been expressed about the apparent decline in numbers of birds in the Ravenglass estuary in west Cumbria, particularly of the black-headed gull colony on the Drigg dunes, and suggestions have been made that this decline might be due to excessive radiation in the birds’ food and their general environment.” But official studies concluded: “the concentrations of radionuclides in the foods, body tissues and general environment were at least three orders of magnitude too low to have had any effect. The more likely cause of the desertion of the gullery was the combination of an uncontrolled fox population, the severest outbreak of myxomatosis amongst the rabbits since 1954 and the driest May–July period on record, all in the same year (1984)”.

Fantastic Mr Fox?

So, the official finger of blame for the gullery collapse was pointed not at the dumping of nuclear wastes but at a lack of rabbits and the Fantastic Mr Fox! If this was the cause surely the gullery (there long before the rabbits), would have recovered along with the rabbit population. Earlier this month it was announced that the “Repository” for “Low Level Nuclear Waste” at Drigg has been given the all clear by the Environment Agency to expand, though this still needs to be approved by Cumbria County Council scheduled for early 2016 (date tbc). http://llwrsite.com/2015/11/llwr-achieves-major-milestone/  The Alvin Weinberg Foundation welcomes the Environment Agency’s rubber stamp with open arms saying “Radioactive waste, such as that found at Drigg, is surprisingly easy to contain, as encasing the waste in appropriate materials can block all the effects of radiation.”  A “repository” suggests “a safe storage location.” Drigg is not a contained store. Radioactive emissions are routinely released to air and to sea. (http://llwrsite.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/7_-RP-DR-GEN-PROJ-00035-2010-Leachate-Groundwater-and-Surface-Water-Monitoring-Issue-2-MASTER-26-.pdf )

Some years ago an advert appeared in the Whitehaven News asking Cumbrians if they could recall what had been put in Drigg nuclear dump as the official records were less than complete. “We are very keen to speak to people who were directly involved in consigning nuclear waste during the 1960s to the mid-1980s in order to build up a comprehensive picture of the waste inventory in the trenches.”

It is not surprising that the deadly cocktail of radioactive and chemical waste at Drigg is unfathomable. Drigg was first dragooned into military service in 1940 with Sellafield following two years later as Royal Ordnance Factories producing trinitrotoluene (TNT) and other chemical explosives. These isolated and remote coastal sites within a short distance of each other were chosen because of the hazardous nature of the process and to minimise the risk of enemy air attack.

Things have moved on from tumble tipping into trenches. Now radioactive and chemical waste is packed into shipping containers which are then filled with concrete.

Nuclear “Bin Juice”

At Drigg a Marine Holding Tank operates like a septic tank and the nuclear dump “bin juice” is emptied into the Irish Sea regularly. Incredibly the radioactive sediment which collects on the floor of Drigg’s Marine Holding Tank was recently trucked over 250 miles to Kings Cliffe, Northamptonshire.( http://llwrsite.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/On-the-Level-June-2015.pdf )The people of Kings Cliffe have vigorously opposed the opening up of landfill for reclassified/deregulated “Very Low Level Radioactive Waste” Northamptonshire County Council had refused planning permission for the Kings Cliffe nuclear dump and 98 per cent of people who took part in local referendums opposed the plans. However, government minister Eric Pickles dumped democracy in order to dump nuclear waste. Mr Pickles said he was satisfied the waste “would not be harmful to the local community”. Tell that to the gulls!

Getting Shot of Nuclear Wastes

The nuclear industry is desperate to get shot of its nuclear wastes. Radioactive waste is dispersed around the environment by diverting it to landfill, discharging it into our estuaries, seas and atmosphere using for example metal ‘recycling’ plants and incinerators. As a result of this deregulation, intermediate level waste has already been “accidently” dumped in Cumbrian landfill at Lillyhall.  The plan for the extension of Drigg Nuclear Dump will come before Cumbria County Council in early 2016. We will be urging the Council to question the assumption that Drigg’s vulnerable and uniquely dangerous coastal nuclear dump site should recieve further nuclear wastes. The Author of ‘Wild Britain’ observes: “The full title of this nature reserve – Ravenglass Dunes and Gullery – is now a sad irony, for although the dunes are still a distinguishing feature, the gullery is not. In 1985 the birds decided that the level of radioactive pollution from nearby Sellafield had reached unacceptable levels, and the huge colony of black-headed gull and the four species of breeding tern – sandwich, common, arctic and little – all departed.”

Wild Britain, Douglas Botting, (1992), p.87/8. http://www.doordie.org.uk/issues/issue-9/22-9-reviews/117-wild-britain-a-traveller-s-guide.html

New build and continued reprocessing would of course lead to a further tsunami of nuclear wastes requiring many more Driggs. https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-moorside-biggest-nuclear-development-in-europe

Please write to Cumbria County Council at : democratic.services@cumbria.gov.uk  asking them to oppose the extension to Drigg and to oppose the continued dumping of radioactive wastes at this uniquely vulnerable site. “Low Level Waste” does not mean low risk or short lived. Some of these “low level” radioactive wastes will still be lethal tens of thousands of years into the future. http://ieer.org/resource/books/high-level-dollars-low-level-sense/

Planning Application 4/11/9007 Low Level Waste Repository Site Optimisation and Closure Works

“The Environment Agency has given a formal view that providing their requirements as stated in the Agency guidance are met, the potential for disruption of the site is an acceptable risk”   By “disruption of the site” they mean inundation by sea and flood.

“Planning Overview

LLW Repository Ltd is seeking planning permission from Cumbria County Council (CCC) for:

  • Disposal of low level waste (LLW) in Vault 9 (rather than storage);
  • The phased construction of new Vaults 9a and 10 to 14;
  • The phased disposal of LLW in the vaults over the period 2014-2079; and
  • Phased construction of a final restoration cap over the period 2014 to 2079 across each full vault and the adjacent area of trenches. 
The site will be progressively restored to grassland in parallel with a phased cap construction with screening planting on the perimeter of the site.”

“The Drigg site uses two disposal systems: 1) An original system operated from 1959 to 1988 comprising a series of parallel trenches excavated into glacial clays, back filled with LLW and covered with an interim water resistant cap. 2) Current disposal of compacted waste placed in steel ISO-freight containers, with void space filled with a highly fluid cement based grout. These containers are then disposed of in a series of open concrete vaults. Figure 1 illustrates the disposition of the two disposal systems. Drigg LLW contains a large proportion of cellulosic waste together with disposed steel and contaminated soil. Radionuclides with highest activities in the inventory include 3H, 241Pu, 137Cs, 234U and 90Sr. The long-lived radionuclides 238U and 232Th have the highest molal concentration.” http://centaur.reading.ac.uk/16608/1/mrspaper.pdf


Secret State 15: Why did BBC helicopter footage of flooding fail to show the threatened Cumbrian nuclear installations?

Political Concern

Secret State 1 drew attention to a 2011 report in the Guardian showing how the business and energy departments worked closely behind the scenes with multinationals EDF Energy, Areva and Westinghouse, to try to ensure that the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident did not derail their plans for a new generation of nuclear stations in the UK.

Three years ago DEFRA reported on the nuclear sites which are at risk of flooding and coastal erosion – seeRob Edwards in the Guardian– but politicians are not facing the risks.Today’sDrigg flood alert:

env header nuclear 3 drigg flood notice

Last year, the Guardian reported that in internal Environment Agency document, suggests that it was a mistake to position the Drigg radioactive waste site close to the Cumbrian coast because of the risk of flooding. In 2013 Drigg Railway station was closed due to the flooding and the area was also affected in 2014.


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The River Ribble – birthing the nuclear nightmare: 1st Installment of the Springfields Archive

there are Flood Warnings on the River Ribble … Dumping radioactive waste alongside the Ribble at Clifton Marsh should stop Now.

Radiation Free Lakeland

River Ribble – Penwortham Mill

Lancashire Evening Post - Children at Risk? Springfields Nuclear Plant Lancashire Evening Post – Children at Risk? Springfields Nuclear Plant

The beginning of the nuclear chain in the UK is at Springfields near Preston. Uranium is ripped out of the ground in far off lands such as Africa, Peru, and even the Grand Canyon. The uranium is brought here by road and rail for Springfields to work their magic The emissions from the birthing of uranium fuel is pumped to the River Ribble, to Clifton Marsh landfill and to the air. The Springfields site boasts that it has “already produced several million fuel elements and provided products and services for over 140 reactors in more than 12 countries”.

This activity is set to explode with new build. The operators of Springfields (Toshiba and Westinghouse) have signed a 150 year lease with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. The industry and our nuclear headed government must be laughing…

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The nuclear charlatans’ last refuge – their myth about climate change


Emperor's New Clothes 3

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition: Nuclear power and climate progress in the 21st century http://thebulletin.org/commentary/praise-lord-and-pass-ammunition-nuclear-power-and-climate-progress-21st-century 17 DECEMBER 2015 Peter A. Bradford adjunct professor, Vermont Law School and former Nuclear Regulatory Commission member

In the 15th year of the era formerly known as “the nuclear renaissance,” not a single molecule of carbon dioxide emission has been avoided by a renaissance reactor built in the United States or in Europe. Unless the 40-year-old Watts Bar 2 reactor scheduled to operate in Tennessee early in 2016 is called “renaissance,” this situation will not change for several more years.

Climate change, so urgent and so seemingly intractable, has become the last refuge of nuclear charlatans throughout the Western world. From well-meaning ideologues and editorial writers claiming that the unknowable is theirs to state with certainty, to paid advocates more skilled in pleasing and persuading government officials than furthering consumer and environmental well-being, prophetic arguments…

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