Request for a Question in Parliament on Cumbria’s Troubled Waters


River Ehen and Irish Sea
This where “Moorside” is planned – the floodplain of the River Ehen


Dear Tim Farron MP,

Since we last spoke I have received Freedom of Information answers regarding Sellafield’s abstraction from the internationally protected river Ehen.

As you know this is of public interest as 80,000 households in West Cumbria are now receiving 20% borehole water (causing reported illnesses) mixed in with the freshwater from the Ennerdale/River Ehen catchment. This to protect the fragile habitat of the river Ehen and the critically endangered pearl mussels in line with the Habitats Directive.

With this in mind I asked the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority if they would be ceasing abstraction from the Ehen in order to protect the fragile habitat and the freshwater pearl mussels. To put it into perspective:

NDA have a license to abstract 18Ml/d for evaporative cooling and 18Ml/d for processes. A total of 36Ml/d

United Utilities are abstracting 16Ml\d mixed with 4Ml/d from boreholes for 80,000 households in West Cumbria.

The answer from the NDA (a full month after asking) was “The NDA operates in full compliance with this licence and there are currently no plans to cease abstraction.”

In answer to the question “What research has been done by the NDA to look at the impacts on the river Ehen from the decades of continuous downstream abstraction?

The answer from the NDA “No research has been carried out in this area.”

This already desperate situation will become ever more desperate if nuclear new build goes ahead. The wastes from new build would be from “high burn” fuel and would be hotter than existing wastes requiring cooling for far longer.  Requiring ever greater quantities of the top quality fresh water that is now being denied to West Cumbrians

Sellafield has a big get out clause regarding the Habitats Directive protecting the Ehen and that is “Imperative Reasons of Overriding Public Interest.”   Is it really in the public’s interest to keep on producing more and more nuclear waste?  Cumbria’s top quality fresh water is a finite resource and the public are beginning to understand that they are far further down the pecking order in having first dibs on that water than Sellafield where new spent fuel waste arrives by the week.

The fact that this abusive use of fresh water has been kept under wraps is a deliberate abuse of the human right to know how our fresh water will be impacted upon by producing ever more nuclear wastes.

Please can you ask the House of Parliament a question: 80,000 households in Cumbria are drinking water from boreholes (causing reported illnesses) while Sellafield has overriding rights on top quality fresh water from the internationally protected River Ehen. Sellafield needs this water in order to prevent a nuclear catastrophe. However, how ethical is it to pretend that this is not happening and to continue to produce ever more nuclear wastes from new nuclear build which would require ever more top quality fresh water to cool?

Many thanks

Yours sincerely,


Marianne Birkby

on behalf of Radiation Free Lakeland


Freedom of Info Answers

more info

One thought on “Request for a Question in Parliament on Cumbria’s Troubled Waters

  1. Pingback: Evidence Sent to the Public Inquiry – Please Send Your Own in Before May 6th – Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole

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