Radioactive Sand Sculptures by Cumbria Wildlife Trust?

Beached art
An urgent request has been sent to Sellafield to monitor and retrieve radioactive particles from  St bees beach ahead of Cumbria Wildlife Trust”s ‘Beached Art’ day.
Sellafield have treated this straightforward request under Freedom of Information rules which means that there will not be a reply for at least a month and then we may have to pay for the request to be answered.
The accuracy of the independent report has been confirmed by the Environment Agency (letter from EA below) .  Marianne Birkby of RaFL says “the EA recognise the accuracy of our citizen science project and the accuracy of the students work,  but they fail to acknowledge that our samples were taken without the use of expensive detecting (or any) equipment, Also plutonium was not tested for, so this report while accurate does not reveal the full picture.  This means that the volume and viciousness of radioactive particles being washed onto our beaches is far greater than is being admitted to.  It also means the likelihood of inhalation and ingestion of particles by beach users is far greater than “low.”
Cumbria Wildlife Trust and other beach users have faith in the authorities when they say the beaches are safe.  This faith is misplaced.  The nuclear waste scandal has been going on for decades polluting our beautiful beaches with insidious radioactive particles and it will continue unabated unless people square up to the nuclear industry and say enough is enough”
In the absence of any warnings from the authorities we will once again be at the beach at St Bees to leaflet and warn folk of the very real possibility of their children (or pregnant mothers) ingesting radioactive cesium, americium and plutonium.  If you would like to join campaigners we will be meeting at St Bees beach at 10.30am this Saturday 4th August.
Letter sent to Sellafield
Dear Karl,
I would be very grateful if you could make sure the relevant person at Sellafield receives this information and our urgent request for testing of St Bees beach ahead of Cumbria Wildlife Trusts beached art day.
Radiation Free Lakeland have been sending beach samples from West Cumbria to a laboratory in the US.  Nuclear Science undergraduates have tested the samples and compiled a report (see below). Fully one third of all our samples tested positively for cesium and americium at levels high enough to cause harm.  Lack of funding meant Plutonium was not tested for. But where there is americium there is likely to be plutonium.
The Environment Agency have seen the results of our citizen science in collaboration with US students and do not query the results, they merely repeat that the risk is “low.”   A full third of ALL our random samples which were taken without any monitoring equipment contain americium and cesium, this means the risk of a child coming into contact and ingesting or inhaling radioactive particles is far from “low”.    Would one child a year using a beach on the West Coast of Cumbria ingest a radioactive particle which results in cancer or other radiation linked disease?   Two children? Three?  30?  The EA query the “appropriateness” of the measuring scale used by students to provide raw data.   As far as we can see the EA and yourselves do not provide raw data measurements of any kind  to the public but only release derivative analyses of “trends” and “dose.”  These derivative reports of Radioactive Particle finds from yourselves and the regulators are also a full year out of date by time of publication.
People trust you and the regulators when you say the beaches are safe.  Cumbria Wildlife Trust assume when they do their  annual beached art sculpture event at St Bees that “the last particle has been picked up” (Peter Bullard, Director of CWT).
We have a few urgent questions
1. Cumbria Wildlife Trust’s annual beach sculpture event will take place at St Bees on 4th August.  Given that CWT assume “the last particle has been picked up” will Sellafield monitor and retrieve radioactive particles from the sand sculpture area ahead of the event and let the public know the resulting raw data?
2. To make their sand sculptures Children will dig down far deeper than the 20cm depth the Sellafield monitoring and retrieval covers.  Will Sellafield monitor and retrieve radioactive particles from the beach sculpture area at a greater depth than 20cm?
3.  We would like to have sight of the raw data from all your 2016-17 beach sampling.
I look forward to hearing from you,
Yours sincerely,
Marianne Birkby
On behalf of Radiation Free Lakeland
Note Sellafield have replied but have treated this request as a Freedom of Information request which we may have to pay for and will not be answered for at least a month.

Report by Worcester Polytechnic Institute undergraduate nuclear science students using samples from Radiation Free Lakeland volunteers

Also we amended a typo on the student sampling maps there is a PDF here

Reply from EA below confirms accuracy of our citizen science report but fails to acknowledge that the samples were taken without the use of expensive detecting (or any) equipment and that plutonium was not tested for so our report does not tell the whole story.   This means that the volume of radioactive particles on the beaches is far greater than is being admitted to by the regulators and by Sellafield.  It also means the likelihood of inhalation and ingestion of particles by beach users is far greater than “low”.  The official monitoring reports are a year out of date by the time they are published.
Begin forwarded message:
From: CMBLNC Info Requests <Inforequests.cmblnc@>
Date: 4 July 2018 at 09:35:10 BST

Subject: CL89366BL

Dear Marianne


Enquiry regarding levels of Cesium and Americium found on beaches declared safe.


We respond under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environment Regulations 2004.


Thank you for your enquiry received on 12 June 2018 in which you shared the findings of your report and posed a question about radioactivity in the West Cumbrian coastal area.  With regards to your question, you asked why monitoring for radioactivity is not measured and reported weekly.


There are extensive radiological monitoring programmes around West Cumbria and these programmes in their entirety will, on average, provide weekly monitoring. The monitoring programmes are as follows:


·        Sellafield Limited’s environmental monitoring programme – required by Environment Agency environmental permit.

·        Sellafield Limited’s radioactive particles monitoring programme – required by Environment Agency environmental permit.

·        Environment Agency’s independent environmental monitoring programme.

·        Food Standards Agency’s independent food monitoring programme.


The results of the Environment Agency’s and Food Standards Agency’s programmes are published annually in a report entitled ‘Radioactivity in Food and the Environment’ (RIFE) available at: publications/radioactivity-in- food-and-the-environment-rife- reports-2004-to-2016.

The results of the environmental monitoring programme undertaken by Sellafield Limited are available publically at: collections/sellafield-ltd- environmental-and-safety- reports.


We only report results annually in the UK as the ‘safety limit’ is an annual dose limit to members of the public of 1mSv/y. We use the results of our monitoring programme to assess the doses to members of the public over the period of one year. The doses received from people undertaking work or leisure activities on West Cumbrian beaches are much less than 1mSv/y and have shown a downward trend with time.


The US safety standard you refer to is for the clean-up of radium contamination in soil for processing sites where there are uranium and thorium mill tailings. It is mainly to protect against radon which is a radioactive decay product of radium-226. Hence, it is not appropriate to use this safety standard for americium-241 or caesium-137.


The Environment Agency’s independent monitoring programme includes sediment samples taken and analysed for americium-241 and caesium-137 at locations similar to those that you have sampled.  The results of the sampling that you report are consistent with our own routine monitoring (published in the RIFE reports) and research we have commissioned on the Esk estuary. The following link will take you to our research report on this: ( government/publications/ survey-of-gamma-dose-rates-in- air-around-the-esk-estuary- related-to-radioactivity- levels-in-sediments).

With regard to radioactive particles on West Cumbrian beaches, we have been advised by Public Health England (PHE) and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) that the overall health risk to people from radioactive particles is very low and much lower than other risks that people accept when using the beaches.  We have produced a briefing note on the matter, which can be found at the following link:
( government/publications/ monitoring-beaches-near- sellafield-for-radioactive- material/monitoring-beaches- near-sellafield-for- radioactive-material).

PHE has advised that measures to protect the public are not needed, but that monitoring should continue for the Sellafield beach and 1 or 2 other west Cumbria beaches to check that the risks to the public remain low. The results of the programme are reported to us on a quarterly basis and we are notified at the time of any individual finds that meet ‘trigger levels’ for further laboratory analysis.  We have developed an intervention plan such that if the situation changes due to overall trends, or individual finds, there are predefined actions to ensure the public remain protected.  This intervention plan is available at: publications/sellafield– radioactive-objects- intervention-plan/sellafield– radioactive-objects- intervention-plan

We are confident that the level of beach monitoring in place continues to be justified by the results of the monitoring which demonstrate find rates are well below the trigger values contained in the intervention plan and so confirm the low risk that any particles present pose to the public.

I hope the above information is helpful.

Please get in touch if you have any further queries or contact us within 2 months if you would like us to review the information we have sent.


Kind regards.



Helen Reynolds

Customer Engagement officer

Cumbria and Lancashire

3 thoughts on “Radioactive Sand Sculptures by Cumbria Wildlife Trust?

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