#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

2 thoughts on “#DriggLockTheGate: letter to Cumbria County Council

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