90% of Sellafield’s Discharged Plutonium Wastes are on the “Cumbrian Mud Patch” Below which Lies the Coal Mine Plan

Graphic from New Report Published in Science
of the Total Environment “Controls on anthropogenic radionuclide distribution in the Sellafield-impacted Eastern Irish Sea” 
Daisy Ray et al.  https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969720342893

This information has been sent out to press on numerous occasions. So far it has not been picked up. A letter (another one!!) has just been sent to the Secretary of State reiterating nuclear concerns re the coal mine and asking that he calls Cumbria County Council’s decision in.


A Nuclear Safety group based in the South Lakes have sent a ‘Nuclear Issues’ Call In letter to the Secretary of State over the Cumbrian Coal Mine
Radiation Free Lakeland’s Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole campaign has repeatedly delayed the start date of the Coal Mine.  This delay has, say the nuclear safety group, been achieved by legal challenge with the help of lawyers Leigh Day.   The nuclear safety group continue to challenge Cumbria County Council’s approval for the development which would see the first deep coal mine in the UK for decades.

The letter to the Secretary of State Robert Jenrick states :  “We have written to you repeatedly on this and ask that you take all our previous representations and petitions into account when making your decision (to call the Council’s decision in for a public inquiry).  We are writing to you now to remind you of our primary and most visceral concerns which relate to the close proximity of the coal mine to Sellafield and Long Lived “Historic” Nuclear Wastes.” 

Spokesperson for Radiation Free Lakeland says “our concerns are that no-one is taking adequate notice of, or responsibility for the impact this mine would have both on the wastes at Sellafield and also on the reprocessing wastes that have been discharged over many decades and are now sitting on the Irish Sea bed directly under the area that West Cumbria Mining propose mine out.  A massive void the size of Wastwater lake is proposed under the Cumbrian Mud Patch, this would lead to likely collapse of the Irish Sea bed.  Our own commissioned report by Tim Deere-Jones has been vindicated with another report published more recently in Science of the Total Environment which includes findings from the Centre for Radiochemistry Research -The University of Manchester and Radiochemistry Unit -The University of Helsinki,  Finland.  Findings are that up to 90% of the plutonium discharged from Sellafield are likely to be sitting in the silts on the Cumbrian Mud patch along with a cocktail of other radionuclides.  To mine underneath this area for any reason, let alone for unneeded coal, knowing that this is the case,  is an act of premeditated murder no less than letting off a series of nuclear bombs.”
New Report Published under Creative Commons in Science of the Total Environment “Controls on anthropogenic radionuclide distribution in the Sellafield-impacted Eastern Irish Sea”  Daisy Ray et al.  https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969720342893
Image under Creative Commons from the new report

Dear Secretary of State,


Please Call In Cumbria County Council’s Approval of Woodhouse Colliery Near Sellafield Under the Cumbrian Mud Patch 

We have written to you repeatedly on this and ask that you take all our previous representations and petitions into account when making your decision.

We are writing to you now to remind you of our primary and most visceral concerns which relate to the close proximity of the coal mine to Sellafield and Long Lived “Historic” Nuclear Wastes. 


Sellafield is already at “high risk of liquefaction.”  Local evidence at Rampside Nr Barrow shows that liquefaction can be caused by a minor geological event such as a 2.5 earthquake.  Independent reports from geologists have shown that Sellafield is at “high risk of liquefaction.”  With “permitted development”  Cumbria County Council have already allowed the developers to carry out a four year drilling program of exploratory boreholes. This includes boreholes drilled through named faults near the Sellafield site at St Bees, the Nethertown and Rachel Fault.  We have asked Tim Farron MP to ask on our behalf exactly exactly who is responsible for ensuring the integrity of faults and preventing induced seismicity near Sellafield.  It is not clear from the Freedom of Information questions directed at the Office for Nuclear Regulation, the Environment Agency, the British Geological Society and others just who is taking responsibility for the integrity of the faulted geology surrounding the Sellafield plant.

Byerstead Fault

Absraction of groundwater from the Byerstead Fault as the primary freshwater use for Woodhouse Colliery would also significantly impact hydrology and geology.   West Cumbria Mining refuse to say how much ground water from the Byerstead Fault they would be using on site.  Following Freedom of Information requests from ourselves we have been told that the Office for Nuclear Regulation, the British Geological Survey, the Environment Agency and United Utilities have had no correspondence with West Cumbria Mining on how much groundwater would be abstracted from the Byerstead Fault at peak production of the mine. Cumbria County Council has (as far as we know) not asked how much water WCM would be abstracted from the Byerstead Fault.  There has also been no inquiry or research into the likely hydrological and groundwater impacts of abstraction of groundwater from Byerstead Fault for use on site.

We note that The Office for Nuclear Regulation says the mine would lie just 600 metres outside of the 7.4 km circle drawn around Sellafield for which the ONR is stated to be responsible.  Cumbria County Council have not questioned exactly who should be accountable for mining induced seismicity near Sellafield.  This  is despite the new Outlying Planning Zone  around Sellafield being up to 50 km  The coal mine is well within this zone at just 8km away. 

The Head of Cumbria County Council Cllr Stewart Young stated in September 2020  “”This new concept of an Outlying Planning Zone is new. The zone is determined by kilometres from the centre of the Sellafield site. It takes you way beyond the boundaries of Copeland, showing that other areas of Cumbria would also be affected by a serious incident. It includes BAE and the docks at Barrow. So, the implications of an accident are so significant for the whole county. It is a responsibility that sits then with Cumbria County Council as well as Barrow, Copeland and Allerdale. This is an important piece of work.”
The new OPZ  regulations allow for a transitional period and a plan has been agreed with the Office for Nuclear Regulation allowing the council to prepare the plans before November 21 this year.   Sellafield’s OPZ is the largest in the United Kingdom and there is reported to be  a substantial amount of work being undertaken to identify vulnerable premises and infrastructure in the zone.  The County Council has made no reference to the coal mine being a potentially hazardous influencing element within the Sellafield OPZ.

The developers and Cumbria County Council do acknowledge the risk of subsidence. To attempt to mitigate against collapse of the largely onshore part of the mine it is proposed that up to 25% of the voids should be backfilled with cement paste.  However the enormous void the size of Wastwater Lake which is proposed to be mined out under the offshore Cumbrian Mud Patch would not be backfilled.  Collapse of the Irish Sea bed above the mine would inevitably cause subsidence and resuspension of the decades of radioactive wastes in the silt of the named Sellafield/Cumbrian Mud Patch (offshore of Sellafield’s discharge pipelines).  The discharge of aqueous radioactive wastes both under authorisation and accidental, has taken place from the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing site to the Irish Sea since 1952.  “Low level” liquid effluent including very long lived wastes such as plutonium was discharged into the Irish Sea via pipelines extending seawards 2.5 km from the high water mark and ending 20 m below the surface of the water (Gray et al., 1995).  The idea was to “dilute and disperse.”  This has not happened as planned.  Much of the decades of nuclear wastes from reprocessing spent nuclear fuel from all of the UKs nuclear reactors and many oversea’s reactors has ended up in the very same silt that the Woodhouse Colliery would lie beneath.  Our own citizen science sampling of Cumbrian beaches over the years has shown that radioactive wastes are already contaminating Cumbrian beaches.  This ongoing beach contamination by Sellafield’s ‘historic’ and continuing discharges is already an intolerable nuclear waste problem with no solution.  A  coal mine induced collapse of the Irish Sea bed would result in a  tsunami of decades worth of churned up nuclear wastes being chucked into the water column to be dumped on the beaches of Cumbria …Scotland…Isle of Man….Ireland….and even the Arctic

Finally in a darkly beyond satire twist the reprocessing of spent uranium fuel at Sellafield was in order to produce plutonium for the atomic bomb to ‘protect us from the Russian menace’. The decades of discharged wastes including plutonium wastes from this spent fuel reprocessing are largely lying on the Cumbrian Mud Patch.  It is beyond reckoning that the Russian nuclear defense state program “Rosatom”  has the exact same PR company called New Century Media as the coal mine developers who want to mine out large voids under the nuclear wastes on the sea bed.  The ‘historic’ nuclear wastes are long- lived and present a real and present danger to us all should they be resuspended into the water column and back to shores via collapse of the Irish Sea bed.   Also beyond reckoning is the fact that the CEO of the coal mine we are so very concerned about regarding nuclear impacts should have been appointed to the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management. CoRWM are tasked with the thorny problem of what to do with nuclear waste.  Liquefaction of the Sellafield site and the resuspension of nuclear wastes from the Irish Sea bed would be the ultimate solution.  Sellafield would do what it was originally designed to do- to be an ultimate destroyer of all biological life on planet earth.

This is not just about a coal mine – and for that reason the decision by Cumbria County Council must be called in for a public inquiry.

yours sincerely,

Marianne Birkby
Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole – a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign


Outline Planning Zone – up to 50 miles from Sellafield

Nightmare Coal Mine Near Sellafield

The Barrow-in-Furness Earthquake of 15 February 1865: Liquefaction from a Very Small Magnitude Event
R. M. W. Musson 
pure and applied geophysics 

Shocking state of world’s riskiest nuclear waste site
Huge pools of mystery sludge, leaking silos and risk of explosions: Sellafield needs help, but the UK government has just sacked the firm running the clean-up
Read more: https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22530053-800-shocking-state-of-worlds-riskiest-nuclear-waste-site/#ixzz6btMFnAVz

The susceptibility of glacigenic deposits to liquefaction under seismic loading conditions: a case study relating to nuclear site characterization in West Cumbria
Martin Cross, Anass Attya and David J. A. Evans
Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological Society, 62, 116-132, 18 September 2018

Published on Jun 11, 2020  

Discharges to the environment from the Sellafield site, 1951-1992.  J Gray, S R Jones, A D Smith 

Office for Nuclear Regulation remit extends to 7.4km from Sellafield – the coal mine would be 8km i.e. 600 metres outside the ONRs ‘remit’.

Cumbria County Council – Subsidence/Seismic Conditions on West Cumbria Mining Planning Application.  There is no mention of mitigation of resuspension of nuclear wastes from the Cumbrian Mud Patch or induced Seismicity near Sellafield.  West Cumbria Mining would “self monitor’ 

Contaminated Beaches

West Cumbria Mining Abstraction from Byerstead Fault – Correspondence with Environment Agency

Responsibility for Discharged Radioactive Wastes on Cumbrian Mud Patch 

Integrity of the Cumbrian Mud Patch

Who is Responsible for the Radioactive Wastes on the Cumbrian Mud Patch

2 thoughts on “90% of Sellafield’s Discharged Plutonium Wastes are on the “Cumbrian Mud Patch” Below which Lies the Coal Mine Plan

  1. Dr Timothy Nirrus

    Dea Marianne

    Thank you for drawing public attention to the mud patch. The whole situation just horrifies me yet more: extracting coal to burn from the proposed coal mine forcing anthropogenic climate change, risk of collapse of coal mine releasing huge amounts of radiation caught in the mud patch, use of the void caused by extraction of coal as the UK’s deep geological repository eventually for receiving nuclear waste presently in rotting tanks in Sellafield, in rotting defunct Trident nuclear submarines in Scotland, in defunct AGR and MAGNOX power reactors soon to be decommissioned et al. What with the 140 tonnes of Plutonium (most toxic element on Earth) at Sellafield, enough to fabricate 15000 nuclear bombs, the whole scenario is truly ghastly. Sellafield joins Hanford, Mayak, Santa Susanne, Fukushima Dai’ichi as some of the most severely radioactively polluted sites on Earth. Risking subsidence, nuclear waste leaching, carbon dioxide increase is just too reckless in respect of Sellafield and the proposed new coal mine. However, it also has to be remembered that Fukushima Dai’ichi triple meltdown is an extinction level event for the World’s biosphere as the Dai’ichi site leaches radioactive contamination century-after-century into the Pacific Ocean, namely one of the largest carbon dioxide sinks; when algae get destroyed in the Pacific Ocean, runaway anthropogenically-forced climate will be the result from collosal build up of carbon dioxide in atmosphere. The sad things is that the World is already ruined by mankind’s activities that are slowly wrecking havoc; there is not planet B.

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