Volunteers at Radiation Free Lakeland (nuclear safety campaign group based in Cumbria) have been sending soil and sand samples from West Cumbria’s coastline to the US for testing.  The resulting report doesn’t tell the whole story as funding meant only two isotopes were tested for …even so fully one third of ALL samples tested contain levels of americium and cesium which are dangerous to health.
This has been sent to local and national press and Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, It has not been published in the press.
Arnie Gundersen former US nuclear regulator has said

I met Marianne back in 2014 when her group hosted me for a series of speeches in the Cumbria region. Some of the samples I took back then were as radioactive as Fukushima. The UK samples contain largely Americium, a manmade transuranic element associated with bomb making. We still need funding to analyze the remainder of the UK samples. Where there is Americium there is likely Plutonium but we have not look for it yet. As usual, the governments have the money as Fairewinds searches for the truth!

It is important to note that this beach radiation was NOT found by prospecting with a geiger counter looking for hot spots. Rather, citizen scientists just took dirt/sand samples randomly between the low and high tide marks and then mailed the samples with a GPS location to be analyzed here in the US. The UK government has been covering up the severity of the radiation in the Irish Sea and on Cumbria’s beaches.

Here is one of the MANY press items sent out and ignored by local and national press

Lake District Coast: “Safe Beaches” ?

Cumbrian beaches are the most beautiful in the world. I think so anyway. Lakeland mountains sweep down to the Irish Sea and the scene is idyllic. Idyllic that is, as long as your eyes are blind to Sellafield.

The Last Radioactive Particle Has Been Removed

This time last year we (Radiation Free Lakeland) received a letter from the Director of Cumbria Wildlife Trust, Peter Bullard, confidently telling us: “
“As you know the last known (radioactive) particle was removed from the beach and isn’t there anymore. So there isn’t a risk from previous particles.”

Over several years Radiation Free Lakeland have been writing doggedly to Cumbria Wildlife Trust asking them to scrap their ‘beached art’ competition at St Bees. Their reply: “The evidence available to the Trust is there isn’t a significant risk from radiation to people attending the event.” This so called ‘evidence’ is from bodies such as The Environment Agency, United Utilities, Councils and Marine Conservation Society. These groups tasked with public health do not consider measurement of radioactive wastes from Sellafield as relevant. Bacteria on the beaches is measured and reported on weekly by the Environment Agency- but radioactive wastes?  The monitoring and retrieval of radioactive particles stops during the summer months ( Easter and Christmas too) in order not to alarm beach users on the Lake District coastline.

We are Powerless?

This is truly appalling. We felt so powerless. All the relevant authorities seem to be no more than lap dogs to the nuclear industry. We decided to do something. So, volunteers at Radiation Free Lakeland have been doing some citizen science and have been sending dry samples to a laboratory in the US. Undergraduate nuclear science students from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts have compiled the results into a report:   “Of the 36 samples tested 10 (28%) were found to be over the safety limit for Cesium and 14 (39%) were found to be over the safety limit for Americium.”  In other words fully one third of all samples tested were found to be above levels safe for human health.

Radioactive Particles: Danger to Health

That needs restating. Fully one third of all random samples taken (without use of a Geiger counter) from West Cumbria’s coastal areas including the Cumbrian beaches said to be “pristine” and “safe bathing beaches”  are found to exceed recommended safe levels for Americium- 241 and Cesium-137.

In 2014 The Marine Conservation Society told Radiation Free Lakeland that “Our Good Beach Guide criteria is based on water quality alone, and as a small charity, we unfortunately are unable to undertake any tests of our own. Because the statutory body advises us that no special precautionary actions are required, we cannot justify putting a precautionary notice on our website without additional independent evidence”.   Radiation Free Lakeland and nuclear science students from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts have provided independent evidence that radioactive wastes from Sellafield are clinging to the “pristine” golden sand. This is a danger to human health.   Internal exposure to Cesium-137, through ingestion or inhalation allows the radioactive material to be distributed in the soft tissues, especially muscle tissue, exposing these tissues to the beta particles and gamma radiation and increasing cancer risk.  Americium 241 upon entering the body by any route of exposure moves relatively rapidly through the body and is deposited on the surfaces of the bones where it remains for a long time. The dose can cause changes in the genetic material of these cells that could result in health effects such as bone cancers. This risk of harm increases for women and children.

Dirty New Industry

Nuclear apologists will say this ongoing damage is a result of old nuclear. Decades of dirty old reprocessing.  This is true. But. It is still happening now. The nuclear industry continues to make nuclear fuel in Preston, to burn in reactors throughout the UK. The ‘spent fuel’ is sent by rail to Sellafield to reprocess.  Every day that Sellafield continues to accept nuclear waste and reprocess that waste, then the Irish Sea will continue to accumulate a radioactive cocktail.   Most of those radioactive wastes piped out to sea do not “dilute and disperse,” rather they settle on the Irish Sea bed until resuspended and are brought back to Cumbrian beaches with the tide.

We have sent a copy of the report from Worcester Polytechnic Institute to organisations tasked with public and environmental health including the Environment Agency, Cumbria Wildlife Trust and the Marine Conservation Society.  Of these only the Marine Conservation Society has so far responded with the following:

“Since 2015 MCS has stopped assessing bathing beaches based on our own criteria and instead displays water quality information from the relevant Environmental Regulator – in Cumbria this is the Environment Agency.  In addition to this, also, unfortunately, we do not have any in-house expertise in nuclear contamination.

We do of course want to ensure that we are displaying the best available information regarding water quality on our website.  Therefore Rachel would like to ask for your permission to forward your concerns to the bathing water team at the Environment Agency (copying in yourself to the email) so that they can see the information you have collected and advise on any additional warnings which may need to be displayed regarding the use of these location.”

The Environment Agency have replied to us saying that our citizen science samples and the resulting WPI report is “consistent” with their findings.  This is not entirely true as we did not use any equipment to find radioactive samples – yet a full third of all our samples were contaminated with americium and cesium.  This means that the liklihood of a member of the public encountering a radioactive particle is not “low.”  The Environment Agency produce a report of “trends” and “totals” which do not tell a pregnant mother whether plutonium, americium or cesium has been found on the beach that week.  In fact their yearly report is a full year out of date by the time it is published.

In the meantime the tides continues to turn on Cumbrian Beaches.
Were the students correct in finding one third of all random samples dangerous to health?
Should the authorities tasked with public health fess up and inform the public of radioactive findings in the same way as bacteria is reported?
Should radioactive particles be monitored and retrieved over Summer, Easter and Christmas?
Should monitoring be left to regulators who seem to be in the industry’s pockets and seemingly oblivious to the DNA mutating and disease inducing properties of radiation.
Just sticking our heads in the sand on Cumbria’s beaches and repeating the mantra, “nuclear is safe,” is dangerous to our health and to the health of the future generations that we each carry in our DNA.
Ravenglass - Braystones.jpg
The full sampling maps can be found here as a pdf – Sampling Maps


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