Many thanks to Sam for this eyeopening Guest Blog…..
Map Reading and Madness at the Drigg Nuclear Waste Dump
Guest Blog by Sam – the newest member of Radiation Free Lakeland
When you get off the train at Drigg you can’t miss the waste dump. The fence runs right along by the platform and then on for another 1.7 km alongside the railway line. At intervals there are signs on the fence that say it is a nuclear licenced facility. The fence is green as I remember and has that spiralling wire rolled along the top. There is another fence inside this fence and a roadway in between them that a patrolling vehicle drives around. There are some scrabbling holes where rabbits have tried to dig their way in but have not succeeded as the fence goes down into the ground. However there are some specially made small gaps in the fence that presumably allow small animals to get in and out of the site.
The main entrance has a flag flying and a strange u shaped entry road which may, or may not, be to stop unwanted vehicles crashing the gates. Inside there is a gatehouse.
There are trees planted all around the fence and also a bund type mounded wall. From the footpath at the north west corner the stacks of shipping containers can be clearly seen. They can also be seen very clearly on the ‘google earth’ images as can the railway sidings within the site presumably for sending radioactive materials to and from Sellafield just up the coast.
These stacked up shipping containers are the current resting place of nuclear waste embedded in concrete. The public footpath and the railway line run directly along the fenceline. The B5344 Cumbria Cycle Way is about 200 meters away. The lovely village of Drigg is just next to the station.
The whole site is surreal. It is hard to believe what I am seeing. Radioactive waste packed into shipping containers – parked behind two fences alongside the Cumbrian coast.
The actual position on the coastline is perhaps the most surreal thing of all. If you check the OS Outdoor Leisure Map, [English Lakes South West] – you will see that the NW corner of the site – the place with all the shipping containers – is a mere 300m from the high tide mark. If you check the contours you’ll see the 20m contour weaving thru the site. This NW corner is less than 20m above sea level. Most of the site is under the 20m level. Some of it under 10m at the SW corner where it links to a tidal river.
If this were not terrifying enough – the land between the sea and the site is dunes and heath. Walking along the shore you can see that the erosion is very marked. The dunes/heath being cut away in an active process. Chunks of land with still growing grass are dangling down over the edge. So even the 20m contour line here seems a rather impermanent thing – the sea is eating into the land all the time.
I just checked what the abbreviation ‘NTL’ means on the map. It means Normal Tidal Limit. On the River Irt, which runs to the south of the site, the NTL is well inland of the dump site – so normal tides are daily flowing in and out within 200m from the dump site fence with no contours in between that I can see. From the dump site a long straight drainage ditch runs into a small stream which runs into this tidal stretch of the Irt – scarcely above sea level. Well – given that the sea is flowing in and out daily I guess this must be at sea level itself. Map reading has suddenly become a very scary activity.
There is no point in going on at length about the total madness of all this. I will just say in big type THIS IS TOTAL MADNESS. To add to the surreal nature of the horror is that this is all set in a supremely beautiful part of the world – the sea views to the Isle of Man, the long sandy beaches, the gorse covered, lark singing dunes, the Lake District mountains soaring up behind Wastwater . . . . . . gorgeous.
So – what we seem to have is a ‘Low Level Waste Repository’ which is very literally at a low level – barely above sea level. It is set in the shifting sands of heathland 300meters from current high tide mark. The dunes/heath are eroding. A watercourse from the site flows into the tidal river Irt just south of the site.
This looks like a very dodgy place to park nuclear waste for even half an hour . . . yet . . . yes . . . it gets worse . . . . the plan is to ‘cap’ the shipping containers with concrete in a ‘vault’ , seal them in and then put soil and grass on the top so no one can see what’s happening down there in the shifting sands. And the tides continue to rise. Oh yes – there will be more trees planted round the grassed site as well. So that’s OK then.
Please check http://llwrsite.com/ for videos of how they plan for the Nuclear Dump to be concreted in and grassed over.