Secret Lake District Waters: “Safeguarding National Security”

                    Calder Abbey and the river Calder just one mile before it enters the Sellafield site


Secret Lake District Waters: “Safeguarding National Security”

“Sellafield has first and last dibs on our precious fresh water”
According to the former National Rivers Authority, now the Environment Agency, Sellafield used 97 MILLION litres of fresh water (25.5 MILLION gallons) a day in 1993.
Compare this with the fracking industry’s shocking water  use : Cuadrilla said that fracking the two wells at Preston New Road, which is now expected to take place in late August or early September, would use up to 32,500 litres of water.
That is shocking.
Beyond shocking is that Sellafield according the former National Rivers Authority used 97 MILLION litres of fresh water EVERY DAY in 1993!
Local nuclear safety campaign group Radiation Free Lakeland were keen to find out what the freshwater situation is today for Sellafield. Sellafield no longer has nuclear reactors on site but is now the worlds most dangerous nuclear waste store and spent nuclear fuel still arrives for ‘reprocessing’.
Following a series of Freedom of Information requests to track down “Sellafields Water Demand Study 2014” the document eventually released was, says Radiation Free Lakeland “so heavily blacked out as to be illegible”.
Group spokesperson for RaFL:
“there are some numbers that have not been blacked out and these are mind boggling.
One unredacted table shows total abstraction including leakage being 863 cubic metres per HOUR (ie 863,000 litres per hour), it is significant that this has been going on under the radar, while there has, quite rightly, been an outcry over Cuadrilla using 756,000 litres a day for fracking operations near Preston.   The nuclear industry has been getting away with using far greater volumes of our precious fresh water reserves 24/7 for decade upon decade.”
Sellafield’s catch phrase is “open, honest and transparent.”
So a question asking how much freshwater Sellafield uses now and where that water comes from should be a straightforward matter. Not so. Sellafield have explained that the document has been blacked out for reasons of “safeguarding national security.” Not only details on the volumes of freshwater has been removed but also the names of rivers, lakes and other water sources.
Of course Sellafield needs top quality freshwater to prevent from blowing us all up.  But this information on the nuclear industry’s obscene freshwater use should be a big part of the national psyche. Instead, the nuclear industry’s mega freshwater use and the real reasons why the wettest place in the UK does not have enough “top quality” water to go around,  is swept under the carpet.
This information above has been repeatedly sent to local and national media none of whom have published.  Is this because of the “national security” issue?  Does this mean that protecting the nuclear industry and “national security” is in conflict with the most basic of human rights, the right to clean, fresh water?

On 28 July 2010, through Resolution 64/292, the United Nations General Assembly explicitly recognized the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realisation of all human rights.

In her statement to the Third Committee of the General Assembly on 25 October 2010, the Independent Expert on the right to water and sanitation, Ms Catarina de Albuquerque, advised that a human rights-based approach to access to fresh water required the involvement of all affected people in the decision-making process.  Here in Cumbria the nuclear industry’s secrecy has taken away the right to be involved in any meaningful “decision-making” when it comes to who gets first and last dibs on Cumbria’s top quality fresh water.

The current situation of folk being afraid to turn their taps on in West Cumbria to have a cup of tea because the water from the Ehen catchment is now being mixed with borehole water ‘to save the fresh water mussel’ is a case in point.

What impact has decades of Sellafield’s abstraction from the Ehen catchment had?  No  one knows because there has been no research done.  Despite this thirsty dangerous and secretive elephant in the room, millions are being spent on protecting the freshwater pearl mussel., with a new pipeline from Thirlmere and by adding borehole water to West Cumbria’s drinking water.

This is an extract from the National Rivers Authority document of 1993 which gives an indication of the ongoing antics of the thirsty elephant.

“BNF (British Nuclear Fuels -now the NDA) have eight licenses to take water from a number of different sources.  These include water from two disused mines (Florence and Beckermet), from the rivers Ehen and Calder, from a number of boreholes in the Calder Valley and at Brow Top and from Wastwater lake. The actual mechanics of these abstractions are very complicated.  Water can be abstracted from the Calder Valley boreholes, discharged into the River Calder and re-abstracted downstream at Calder Bridge or Calder Hall. Water abstracted from Florence mine is discharged into Black Beck and thence to the River Ehen and then re-abstracted at Braystones.  Water from Braystones, Wastwater Beckermet mine and the Brow Top boreholes is diverted to Brow Top treatment works where it is filtered and its ph adjusted before being distributed to various parts of the plant at Sellafield.  BNF have a very sophisticated system which enables them to divert water from most of the abstractions as demand dictates to various destinations within the plant.”


“North West Water  (abstracts)   6,975,000,000 gallons/year for Public Water Supply

British Nuclear Fuels plc  (abstracts)   6, 655, 000,000  gallons/year for mainly industrial and cooling purposes”

The nuclear industry do not pay for the water they abstract and use- apart from a nominal abstraction license.

This is what the United Nations say about Fresh Water as a Human Right

  • Sufficient. The water supply for each person must be sufficient and continuous for personal and domestic uses. These uses ordinarily include drinking, personal sanitation, washing of clothes, food preparation, personal and household hygiene. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), between 50 and 100 litres of water per person per day are needed to ensure that most basic needs are met and few health concerns arise.
  • Safe. The water required for each personal or domestic use must be safe, therefore free from micro-organisms, chemical substances and radiological hazards that constitute a threat to a person’s health. Measures of drinking-water safety are usually defined by national and/or local standards for drinking-water quality. The World Health Organization (WHO) Guidelines for drinking-water quality provide a basis for the development of national standards that, if properly implemented, will ensure the safety of drinking-water.
  • Acceptable. Water should be of an acceptable colour, odour and taste for each personal or domestic use. […] All water facilities and services must be culturally appropriate and sensitive to gender, lifecycle and privacy requirements.
  • Physically accessible. Everyone has the right to a water and sanitation service that is physically accessible within, or in the immediate vicinity of the household, educational institution, workplace or health institution. According to WHO, the water source has to be within 1,000 metres of the home and collection time should not exceed 30 minutes.
  • Affordable. Water, and water facilities and services, must be affordable for all. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) suggests that water costs should not exceed 3 per cent of household income.


Press –

Please contact me for sight of the redacted “Sellafield Water Demand”  2014 report

The 1993 National Rivers Authority report can be found here

NW Region River Ehen and Calder Sub Catchment Management Plan 1993


3 thoughts on “Secret Lake District Waters: “Safeguarding National Security”

  1. Pingback: Secret Lake District Waters: “Safeguarding National Security” — « nuclear-news

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