Drigg: quaint coastal village and the UK’s “Low Level” Nuclear Dump


Drigg the quaint coastal village is also home to the UKs ‘Low Level Waste Repository’ (the word ‘Nuclear’ has been dropped from the official title) Although locals know this as the  Nuclear Dump.  Drigg is located near the Sellafield nuclear site on the shifting sands of the Cumbrian coast. Up until the late 1980s radioactive wastes including plutonium wastes were tumble tipped into trenches. Now the site has gone all hi tech and compacts radioactive waste into rusting shipping containers, any void in the container is filled with concrete.

The site sits above West Cumbria Aquifer from which is drawn the borehole water supply for much of West Cumbria while Sellafield gets most of its water from Wastwater.

The plan is to keep on dumping the high end of “low level” radioactive waste here despite the threat of inundation not just from the Irish Sea but also from the rivers and becks running through and alongside the site.

The planning application to extend the wastes, stacking ever more shipping containers higher, has already been approved by our toothless regulators, the Environment Agency.

Please write to the Development Control and Regulation Committee of Cumbria County Council who will be looking at this application on the 11th May ( if it isn’t postponed again) and ask them to refuse permission for the continued use of Drigg as a nuclear waste dump. Ask them to lobby government to hold a moratorium on “decommissioning” and dumping (breaking up and ‘disposing’ of old nuclear plants) which we now know means dispersal of radioactive wastes to Drigg rather than containment on original sites. Many more Driggs and radioactive landfills will be needed if new nuclear build goes ahead.

The site owners the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority pass day to day running of the site to multinational corporations involved in “decommissioning’ and those corporations largely monitor themselves. SO the same people responsible for producing the waste are also responsible for dumping it. The Environment Agency has told us it sees no conflict of interest in this…but we do!   Studsvik, a swedish company who operate the only radioactive scrap metal plant in Europe here in Cumbria is one of the partners of the Drigg site.  On 20th April Studsvik’s waste operations were taken over by EDF.  Presumably this means that EDF  now have a large hand in running the Drigg site? Will EDF be tempted to ship tonnes of radioactive metals from their 9 nuclear
plants being decommissioned now in France, to the Studsvik plant in Workington
now that they own it?  And will the ever increasing tonnage of radioactive shot metal from that radioactive metal “recycling” end up in Drigg which they will also be operating?

more info here: http://www.theecologist.org/campaigning/2986745/cumbria_flooding_environment_agency_issues_alert_on_drigg_nuclear_waste_site.html

“out on a limb” page 14 of Beeches, Boreholes and Badgers

20 years ago – out on another limb. Rusland is just 20 miles away as the crow flies from the proposed Moorside site.

Wastwater Chronicles


30th May 1996

I must have spent a fortune on telephone calls and letters to tree experts.  People sound interested in having a look until the L.D.N.P.A are mentioned.  Seem to have rung people all over the country – got some useful information and recommendations.  One recommendation is for a tree expert with experience in veteran trees.  He turns out to live not far away so he and his colleague agree to have a preliminary look for free.  The news is better than I hoped – Roger C and Andy L reckon the majority of the trees are in good nick!

Roger and Andy very generously agree to do a thorough inspection and report for a nominal fee of £200.  Its still a lot for me – for a long shot to try to save 54 beeches owned by bureaucrats.

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Cumbria Life – “Chernobyl The Cloud Lingers On”

Cumbria Life 1996 - Chernobyl 10 years on

Cumbria Life and Chernobyl…a hard hitting article from 1996…

The lifestyle magazine, Cumbria Life, is not where you would expect to find a hard- hitting article on Chernobyl and the nuclear industry. But that is exactly what was published in this Cumbrian coffee table magazine in 1996. ….

(the article is in the public domain but not online – any mistakes in transcript are mine)



The cloud lingers on

Ten years ago a cloud washed over the Cumbrian fells, coating the grass, trees, heather, bracken and rocks with a film of radiation. It came from Chernobyl, a ruptured nuclear reactor in the Ukraine, several thousand miles away. Early, confident predictions that the heavy Cumbrian rain, that brought down the radioactive Caesium in the first place would now wash it from the uplands, were quietly buried. No amount of rain was every going to wash away the poison from Chernobyl. Award winning environmental writer Alan Air reports.

At the height of the Cold War, the superpowers hid behind the perverted logic of the military defence acronym MAD – Mutually Assured Destruction – to shore up a global arms industry worth billions of pounds. We pointed our nuclear warheads at them. They pointed their nuclear warheads at us. Would they dare unleash their missiles? Would we dare unleash our missiles? All that awful tension.

Cumbria at first glance a global backwater of lakes, dry stone walls and back packing ramblers, seemed remote from the world stage but it played a part in the divide between West and East; Sellafield’s nuclear complex, the Broughton Moor arms depot, Anthorn’s submarine tracking station and even the Chapelcross nuclear plant just across the Solway Firth were all key components in the UK’s military and nuclear defence strategy.

Britain’s post-war civil atomic power programme was inextricably interwoven with its nuclear defence objectives; no British Government Minister wanted to enter the nuclear conference chamber naked.

Thankfully, Eastern Bloc missiles never did scream over Saddleback or the back o’ Skiddaw but in the spring of 1986, before the Soviet Union started to implode, Cumbrians felt the heat of Cold War politics on its back when an experiment at the Lenin nuclear plant at Chernobyl, in the Ukraine went wrong and Number 4 reactor exploded and threw up over Europe.

Spiralling weather patterns spread the atomic debris to dozens of countries in different time zones, heavy rain brought the radiation down on our county’s mountain tops and the alarms went berserk at Sellafield evoking a home-grown nuclear nightmare, the Windscale fire of ’57 that contaminated large parts of Cumbria and northern England. Chernobyl was nothing if not ironic.

Ten years later and Chernobyl – the noun is now instantly synonymous with the world’s worst nuclear disaster – is now in the hands of a ‘democratic’ Ukraine, but the perilous state of the infamous Number 4 reactor continues to cause concern among the

international community. The cracking concrete sarcophagus, hastily erected around the molten core by nuclear workers a the stricken plant, many of whom later died from the radiation, is already crumbling and radioactive water is pouring from the site. Unless a new containment chamber is constructed, and much of the cash would have to come from a kitty topped up by the rich industrial nations of the West, then Chernobyl 2 – The Sequel, is not just a possibility but a probability, warns Janine Allis-Smith of the campaign group Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment (CORE).

“Chernobyl proved that you can never, ever guard against human error, someone doing something stupid. Whatever nuclear experts say about the design of the Chernobyl reactor it was human error that triggered the explosion. It is bound to happen again,” she predicts.

In the weeks, months and years after Chernobyl, hundreds of Cumbrian hill farmers faced restrictions on the movement, and sale for meat, of radioactive-contaminated sheep. Initial Government estimates about the time it would take for dangerous radiation to leave the animals were constantly revised upwards as the main components of Chernobyl fallout, Caesium 137 and Caesium 134, persisted in dangerous amounts in the beasts’ tissues.

Early, confident predictions that the heavy Cumbrian rain that brought down the Caesium in the first place, would now wash it from the uplands were quietly buried.

It took scientists at the Merlewood Research Station at Grange over Sands in south Cumbria, to uncover some very down to earth truths about the persistence of cancer causing Caesium in the Cumbrian hills. The irony of the scientific explanation wasn’t lost on the county’s loose alliance of anti-nuclear and ‘green’ campaigners forever kicking up a stink about nuclear waste reprocessing at Sellafield.

It was all to do with recycling.

In the nutrient poor uplands of the Lake District, native grasses and heathers survive by carefully safeguarding what minerals are available. Elements – which in 1986 including Caesium – are taken up by the roots and then circulated to the succulent shoot tips during the growing season. However, they are not lost when the plant sheds its leaves in the Autumn. Instead they are sucked back into the woody, permanent tissues, to be stored for re-use in the Spring. By another quirk of nature, Caesium was readily absorbed by Cumbrian hill vegetation because of a lack of potassium in the upland soil.

Scientists discovered that plants in potassium deficient areas have a Caesium take up rate that is 12 times greater than those plants growing in potassium rich soil. Even more bizarrely, many of Cumbria’s hillside plants enjoy ‘symbiotic’ relationships with ‘mycorrhizal fungi’ – tiny plants that survive by assisting the host plant to take up minerals. In the case of Cumbrian heather, these fungi helped move Caesium from the roots to the shoot tips on which the sheep fed. Even the lack of clay in our upland soil, a material that binds Caesium and hinders root absorption meant that vegetation could easily access this radioactive ion.

No amount of rain was ever going to wash away the poison from Chernobyl.

Sheep feeding on hillside vegetation took in Caesium with every mouthful. For Ennerdale sheep farmer, John Hinde, who has a 1,500 strong flock at Low Moor End, the Chernobyl fallout meant nine stressful years of working within Government restrictions and monitoring. He has survived but recalls: “For a time it looked as if there wasn’t going to be any sheep left on the fells.”

Ten years on and only a dozen or so farms in Cumbria are regulated by movement restrictions compared to nearly 400 in Wales. That would appear to be good news for our farmers, and the mutton-eating consumer. Janine Allis-Smith of CORE isn’t so sure that radiation levels on the fells have declined quite so dramatically as the Government would have us believe, and she suggests that the de-restrictions are rooted in political pragmatism.

“It is interesting that the only area where this massive de-restriction has taken place is the Lake District. It is obviously important that Cumbrian and the whole tourist area is seen to be okay. I think a lot of Cumbrian farmers had their eyes opened when it was discovered that only 50% of the radiation on the hills came from Chernobyl. Some of the stuff was there long before May 1986” she says.

Indeed, scientists confirmed that radioactive contamination of the fells was not confined to Chernobyl but that much of it came from global nuclear bomb testing, the Windscale Fire of 1957 and routine discharges from Windscale, now Sellafield, in the 1960s and 1970s. Allis-Smith cites an aerial survey revealed the Ravenglass Estuary was contaminated by radioactive discharges from Sellafield long before Chernobyl dumped on us.

“If radiation was like confetti, the whole bloody Lake District would be like a wedding cake.” She suggests.

Chernobyl 10 years on - Cumbria Life 1996

Cumbrian hill farmer’s daughter Jill Perry is equally suspicious of recent de-restrictions in the Lake District,

“The hill farm where I was born and brought up was one of those where milk had to be destroyed after the 1957 Windscale fire and one which, 29 years later, was placed under Chernobyl restrictions and has recently been exempted>” she explains.

“I think most farmers originally thought the Chernobyl testing was just a formality and were surprised and dismayed when they were placed under restriction, and equally wonder why restrictions have been lifted more quickly than those in Wales, where the number of restricted farms seems to fall much more slowly.”

Mrs Perry who now acts as the spokesman for West Cumbrian Friends of the Earth group, sees no point in differentiating between Windscale ’57 and Chernobyl ’86.

“What these two incidents show most graphically is that whether a nuclear accident happens locally or in another country, the radiation recognises no international borders and that we cannot afford to take lightly the risks brought about by human error in a high tech industry.”

The greatest irony of Chernobyl may yet lie ahead. British Nuclear Fuels, the company that now runs Sellafield in West Cumbria (and which has polluted areas of the UK coastline with its radioactive discharges) is now spreading tentacles around the globe. Selling its decontamination services to a tainted world. No-one can rule out experts from Sellafield, the plant that spawned the world’s first ‘civil’ nuclear disaster in 1957 and whose alarms bells rung out loud and clear when the Chernobyl could went over, will not, in the future, ret-trace the path of the Chernobyl radiation plume and venture into the plant’s exclusion zone.

Bridget Woodman, an anti nuclear campaigner with Greenpeace believes that Chernobyl taught Cumbrians about the universal nature of the nuclear power threat.

“When the Chernobyl explosion first appeared on the news bulletins, most Cumbrians probably never envisaged that it would impact directly on them. Yet within a few days, people were watching the skies apprehensively. Cumbrians may have become blasé about Sellafield on their own doorstep but Chernobyl proved that a nuclear disaster can affect them even if its happening thousands of miles away. There is no guarantee of safety. Chernobyl proved there is no escape.

“And while many of the restrictions on sheep movements in Cumbria have now been lifted, we should remember that there is no safe dose of radiation. No-one knows what the legacy of Chernobyl fallout will be on existing and future generations of Cumbrians.

The Red Grouse has escaped media attention but its almost exclusive diet of succulent heather shoots means that many birds will have concentrated Caesium in their bodies post Chernobyl. Work prior to the Chernobyl disaster established that the heather family, Ericaceae, could accumulate high concentrations of Caesium. Since then, surveys in the Lake District have revealed that one species of heather, calluna vulgaris, accumulates the highest Caesium burden.


  • The total radioactively released from Chernobyl was 20 times that of the combined releases of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs.
  • At least 9 million people have been directly affected by the accident
  • Over 160,000 square kilometres of land were contaminated with 42,000 squarekilometres rendered unusable.
  • At least 400,000 people were forced to leave their homes in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.
  • Analysis concluded that the former Soviet Union would have been better off financially if it had never begun building nuclear reactors.
  • It is estimated that the total cost of compensation paid to UK farmers is over £12 million.
  • The Chernobyl disaster has caused a massive increase in thyroid cancers in the three most affected countries of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine.
  • The sarcophagus built to contain the damaged reactor was supposed to last 30 years but some 300 yards of cracks and holes are already evident.
  • In Ukraine, two million children live in contaminated areas with 900,000 still living in high-risk zones.
  • The stricken reactor will remain radioactive for about 10,000 years.


Note: The author ” award winning environment writer” Alan Air has, since this excellent article 20 years ago, been recruited by the nuclear industry to write puff pieces and advertorials.  http://alanair.co.uk/images/studsvikadvertorial.pdf

Nuclear is Renewable… and Pigs Can Fly!

Renewable Nuclear Flying Pig
“Renewable Nuclear” The Flying Pig

The nuclear industry which is pushing for “the biggest nuclear development in Europe” here in Cumbria has been busy over the last decade rebranding itself as “renewable.”  This lie is now being swallowed whole,  by people who should know better.  The renewable energy conference in Glasgow takes place on the 4th May and (with breathtaking nonchalance or lack of stomache to question the poisonous nuclear juggernaught) includes the toxic nuclear industry in its programme.   This is beyond scandalous and we must resist and oppose this “renewable” lie at every opportunity.  Please support the petition asking the organisers of the conference to Ban Nuclear from representing itself as “renewable.”  Glasgow is a mere 100 miles from the proposed biggest new nuclear build in Europe.   The petition can be signed here ..


The text of the Petition says:


To: Judith Patten and Ellen Burgess (Conference Manager)

Please cancel the talk on Nuclear Life Cycle and remove it from the agenda of the All-Energy Renewable Energy Conference May 4th 2016 in Glasgow.

Why is this important?

“Renewable energy is generally defined as energy that is collected from resources which are naturally replenished on a human timescale, such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat” -to quote wikipedia on something which is common knowledge. Nuclear power requires a fuel that has to be extracted in mines as coal or gas.
The nuclear industry likes to promote itself as low or even carbon neutral (of which the latter is plain wrong) and capitalises on the carbon footprint blindness of the british government and COP talks. Even if it is low carbon, it still entails problems that makes this source of energy highly unsustainable: the use of uranium ore as fuel, long-lived, environmentally problematic waste and risks that can be devastating. Even SMR’s are not less problematic just because they are smaller.

I am increasingly outraged by the way the nuclear industry tries to influence and infiltrate every aspect of the british society. I don’t know how they managed to get a slot in this renewable energy conference, but it shows that the nuclear industry is very good at its effort to “improve” its reputation with the public and even scientists and the renewable industry.

Don’t let the nuclear industry brainwash everyone into thinking that nuclear power is a renewable and sustainable energy!

“ugly and unstable:” page 14 of Beeches, Boreholes and Badgers

20 years ago the National Park said of their plan to fell the Rusland Beeches that “safety is our main priority” and yet they opposed the NIREX plan for an underground dump in 1996 on (given the toxic blight) the superficial grounds of “visual impact.” In 2013 their eventual and half hearted opposition to the ten times bigger geological nuclear dump plan (including high level nuclear wastes) was even more weak. Makes you wonder. Remember that Rusland is just 20 miles from Sellafield as the crow flies… this is what they said:

“It remains a concern that significant media interest highlights the potential location of the geological disposal facility in the ‘Lake District’ rather than ‘West Cumbria’. As a result of the association of a geological disposal facility and the Lake District we remain very concerned that there may be a direct impact on businesses operating within and trading off the brand of the Lake District”.

Wastwater Chronicles


19th May 1996

Been lying awake thinking about the beeches.  I rang up the Chair of the ‘Special Planning Board’ in charge of the decision to fell and the conversation goes something like this:

me: why fell all the trees when your own report says only half should be felled?

Chair: by felling half, the others would look ugly and be unstable. Safety is our main priority – what if they fell on a school bus?

me: what if another expert looked at the trees and gave a second opinion on their safety?

Chair: no expert would go out on a limb against our expert!

Note:  the National Park said of their plan to fell the beeches that “safety is our main priority”  and yet they opposed the NIREX plan for an underground dump in 1996 on the superficial grounds of “visual impact.”  In 2013 their eventual and half hearted…

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Earth Day: Burying Radioactive Waste and Dumping it into the Oceans

Mining Awareness +

April 22nd is Earth Day.
NASA, Image # : 68-HC-870, 12/24/1968 Earth-rise Christmas Eve 1968
NASA Earth-Rise Christmas Eve 1968
parting of waters 1493 Chronicles
Schedelsche Weltchronik or Nuremberg Chronicle Date 1493
While browsing on Google, the Earth Day web site kept forcibly opening. And, who is among the Earth Day sponsors? Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) located in Woods Hole Massachusetts: http://www.earthday.org/earth-day/earth-day-2016-partners/ Wikipedia tells us that Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) should not be confused with the nearby (and now infamous) Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI). And as late as 2002 the founder of WHRC, George Woodell, raised concerns about the impacts of nuclear war on the environment, http://whrc.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/2002-04-TooSmallForWar.pdf , whereas WHOI appears to have been long been tied in with the military. However, the two have recently been joined together in a consortium: http://www.woodsholeconsortium.org/news/consortium.html They are also listed as a WHOI funder-partner.

We turn then to the now infamous Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) with its tainted funding ties and home to nervous…

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OMG! The Pylons!!!!


Come on …. the pylons really are the very  least of it.  All my comments on the Guardian’s superficial article on the pylons have not yet (if ever) made the light of day …. The Guardian is playing soft ball when what is needed more than ever is hard hitting investigative journalism into the ever expanding nuclear waste in rusting shipping containers along the Ravenglass estuary at Drigg, the diabolic boreholes already being drilled at Moorside and the whole sorry shebang.



The Guardian - who are they protecting
a screen shot  – one last try at putting a comment on the Guardian’s superficial ‘Fuming Pylon’ article.



“Beautiful” Replacement for Miles of Ancient Hedgerows and the Flood Plain of the Meandering River Ehen


This is NuGen’s “indicative” artists impression of Moorside. It does not include the associated nuclear sprawl that would inevitably  build up around Moorside – auxillary power plants, reprocessing plants – cooling towers, more and more waste dumps and cooling ponds.

Amber Rudd described Nuclear as “beautiful” This is the proposed “beautiful” replacement for dozens of miles of ancient hedgerow, lonnings (green lanes), and the beautiful meandering flood plain of the River Ehen.  Wildlife and habitats are being sold down the radioactive river alongside the people of Cumbria and their neighbours…meanwhile the mainstream conservation groups faff about the pylons – the very least of it!

Petersburgh farm has been demolished in the image to make way for a raised bund around the site, the same farm applied for a single wind turbine recently and was originally turned down by councillors on the grounds of wildlife and view.

So what about the wildlife?  No worries NuGen say they will “replace” the habitat. We are concerned that NuGen are already in discussion with Cumbria Wildlife Trust to “replace” habitat, no doubt ££££s will change hands. We hope not, we hope Cumbria Wildlife Trust and Friends of the Lake District will, albeit late in the day, unequivocally oppose Moorside rather than faffing about with pylons.   This is habitat that cannot be replaced, and this development drives a huge toxic wedge along the already denuded wildlife of West Cumbria’s coastline habitats, estuaries and sea.  Will NuGen “replace” the habitat and health of the people of Cumbria too?

#StopMoorside petition




A Walk to Mark the 30th Anniversary of the Ongoing Chernobyl Disaster.


Please join us on Saturday 30th April.  We will meet at Drigg Railway Station at 11am and walk approximately four miles around the Drigg nuclear waste site where waste has reportedly been buried from the ongoing Chernobyl disaster.

There is no mention of course of the UK’s “Low Level” nuclear waste site on the “Adventure Capital” publicity for the Cumbria Coastal path of which this walk is a part.

PDF file  http://www.cumbriancoastline.co.uk/users/UserFiles/File/Drigg%20Walk.pdf

We will walk to remember and show solidarity with the victims of the Chernobyl disaster and to highlight the ongoing disaster that is nuclear power.

We will discuss the plan by the nuclear industry to expand the volume of the Drigg site which we now know is not only threatened by the sea but also by the rivers running alongside and through the site.  The Development Control Committee of Cumbria County Council are scheduled to discuss on May 11th whether to allow the application to stack ever higher shipping containers of nuclear wastes.

Remember Chernobyl and say Enough is Enough!



Note: There has been a pragmatic argument made that opposing Drigg’s expansion would lead to ever greater dumping of nuclear wastes in landfill.  However, it is pragmatism that has already led to the dumping of nuclear wastes into landfill and it is pragmatism that is heading towards the creation of more and more Driggs and more and more waste being dumped into the environment rather than being stored/contained. Of course the industry does not want to do the only sensible thing which is to Stop making wastes and to Contain the existing waste on the nuclear site it actually originated.    Enough is enough and unless we say that loudly and clearly,  the path will be laid clear for ever more wastes to be dumped in Drigg and in Landfill.  Ever more New and much more dangerous wastes from Moorside and New wastes from “Decommissioning Clean Up” for which read Dumping.