Radioactive Scrap Metal Overflow Plan at the Port of Workington – The Dark Side of Decommissioning

Image sent anonymously to Radiation Free Lakeland – shows up to 160 shipping containers of Radioactive Scrap Metal at the Cyclife/EDF ‘metal recycling facility’ in Lillyhall Industrial Estate. The Cyclife site now want to house an “overflow” of shipping containers full of radscrap metal at the Port of Workington. The Environment Agency have given Cyclife a permit to house 80 radscrap shipping containers 500 metres from residential areas of Workington at the Port of Workington. There has been no vote on this by Councillors – who were unaware of the plan.

The following letter has been sent to the Leader of Cumbria County Council urging them to allow a discussion and vote on this issue of allowing EDF to house the overflow from its growing tsunami of radioactive scrap metal at the Port of Workington.

Dear Stewart Young, Leader of Cumbria County Council, 

Radiation Free Lakeland have been contacted by concerned businesses and individuals in the Workington area who are vehemently opposed to the the housing of 40 full size or 80 half size shipping containers of radioactive scrap metal including plutonium at the Port of Workington.  The reason for a new host site for radioactive wastes at the Port of Workington is because the Cyclife plant at Lillyhall Industrial Estate is out of control (original 2007 plan was for up to 15 containers see attached) with a tsunami of radioactive scrap metal from nuclear “decommissioning” arriving for “recycling” onto the open market.  A drone photograph (attached) anonymously sent to Radiation Free Lakeland and taken in the last week indicates that 160 containers are stacked on the Cyclife, Lillyhall site.  (see attached drone photo)

A Question

We would like to know why the stacking of 80  “Cyclife overflow” shipping containers full of radioactive scrap metal is not being put through any form of scrutiny by Cumbria County Council?   CCC are the  owners and operators of the Port of Workington.  Allerdale Borough Councillors were unaware of the application to the Environment Agency by Cyclife/EDF, whose Radioactive Metal Recycling Facility is overflowing, and have had no opportunity to discuss or vote on the issue, likewise Cumbrian County Councillors.


The original Studsvik facility at Lillyhall business estate was sold to EDF Group in April 2016, and renamed Cyclife UK Ltd.

Original planning application of Studsvik (now Cyclife/EDF)  in 2007 was strongly opposed  by Allerdale Borough Council (Planning) and the two neighbouring parish councils of Dean and Distington along with local businesses including major employers (details below).

The application was  approved on the basis of documents indicating that the site would hold up to 15 half sized shipping containers onsite.  This has been routinely exceeded especially in the years following the acquisition of the site by EDF.  The enormous amount of shipping containers stacked four high being seen by locals on the site along with for example many contaminated rail flat beds used for the transportation of spent nuclear fuel, indicate that the Studsvik site is out of control.  A drone photograph (attached) anonymously sent to Radiation Free Lakeland and taken in the last week indicates that up to 160 containers are stacked on the site.  

The Dark Side of Decommissioning

The reason Cyclife now want to house the equivalent of 80 half size shipping containers at the Port of Workington is precisely because the Lillyhall site is overflowing.  Studsvik originally said that 60% of the radioactive metal would come from Sellafield – we assume that this has escalated to include metals from all decommissioning Magnox EDF sites both here in the UK and possibly overseas? 

The application by Cyclife to the Environment Agency was not made known to the public.  Local nuclear safety group Radiation Free Lakeland only found out by accident and asked for the details of the application under Freedom of Information after the short consultation carried out on between 01/10/2020-28/10/2020 had ended.

 In approving the permit the Environment Agency imply that there was no interest in the issue from locals.  Locals had not been made aware through the press, by the applicant Cyclife/EDF, or by the EA.

Allerdale Borough Council and Parish Councillors who had opposed the original Studsvik metal recycling plan had no idea that Cyclife now want to expand their site onto the Port of Workington.

Most concerning is the fact that The Environment Agency say that a Radiological assessment regarding this permit “is not required because there are no discharges of gaseous or liquid waste, or on-site disposals of solid waste to land”   This takes no account of the worst case scenarios of containers stacked high and becoming stressed thereby accumulating rain water (which then becomes contaminated as has already happened on the Lillyhall site),  of fire hazard (there was recently a scrap metal fire in Sussex involving 250 tonnes of scrap metal ).   

There has been no assessment at all of radiological risk to nearby residents – the Environment Agency merely brush this aside with “The storage of radioactive waste will not pose a risk to local residents or local sensitive receptors. Monitoring will be required under the permit to provide continual demonstration of this”.    This is outrageous.  Of course there is a risk.   The Environment Agency will leave the “monitoring” to Cyclife/EDF who have already been in breach of safety conditions for example a routine audit by the Department for Transport (DfT) on 29-30 June 2010 found “non-conformances relating to design and maintenance controls” for nine radioactive waste containers,  a ban was issued and  Pete Roche, the editor of the website, said : “It is a worrying incident which suggests incompetence. It is also a concern that we only got to hear about it a couple of months after it happened.”  The ban was disclosed in a newsletter posted online in October by the government’s Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII). 

The newsletter added: “NII will seek to ensure that such deficiencies do not extend wider to areas of nuclear site license compliance.” The Studsvik site at Lillyhall is licensed by the NII.  In 2009 the newly formed Radiation Free Lakeland, urged the NII not to licence the site, arguing that it was “irresponsible” to recycle radioactive scrap meta onto the open market. concerns were ignored.

When the risk turns to damage to human health, to the environment and to the reputation of the Port of Workington – who will be liable?

The County Council, the Borough Councils and the Parish Councils should have the opportunity to seek genuinely independent advice on this issue and to have a full discussion and vote BEFORE Cyclife are handed a free pass to store 40 full sized/80 half size shipping containers of scrap metal radioactive wastes which includes plutonium at the Port of Workington.  

Yours sincerely,

Marianne Birkby on behalf of Radiation Free Lakeland

CC Allerdale Borough Councillors, Allerdale Planning


Studsvik’s original application for its Radioactive Metal Recycling Plant in 2007 was widely and vehemently opposed.  

Below are extracts From the Original 2007 Planning Application for Studsvik on the Lillyhall site which was widely opposed.  In contrast – No one has had the opportunity to vote on or even discuss this new application for storage of large amounts of radioactive scrap metal at the Port of Workington.

Major employer, Iggesund packaging company vehemently opposed Studsvik  “In a letter to the council, Alan Brown, contracts and supply manager at Iggesund, said: “Our letter of objection was not available to members nor had the essential content of the letter been embodied in the briefing report on which the council based its decision.” 

 It is clear that local businesses wanted the original Studsvik approval overturned and local councils both parish and borough opposed the decision allowing the radioactive metal recycling site to go ahead.

  • Extracts from Original Planning Application Documents for Studsvik (now Cyclife) Lillyhall Site (now overflowing in breach of original application)

  • 3.1  Allerdale Borough Council (Planning): The above application was considered by the Development Panel on 10 July 2007 when it resolved to object to the application as contrary to Policies EM11, relating to the location of scrapyards and other salvage operations, and EM12 of the Allerdale Local Plan, which realtes to sites covered by the Nuclear Installations Act 1965.
    • 3.4  Dean Parish Council (adjacent parish): Support initiatives to reduce the amount of waste disposed of at the LLWR at Drigg but strongly oppose the proposed development. The reasons for opposing the proposal are: This type of waste should be treated at source in accordance with best environmental principles; the proposal to treat waste from other licensed ‘nuclear sites’ is contrary to Nuclear Policy objectives of both Cumbria County Council and Copeland Borough Council; it is unnecessary to transport such waste to this site through populated areas and it would be imprudent to risk a ‘nuclear incident’; the information in the application is flawed in that sensitive receptors have not been properly identified, existing developments would be affected; the proposed fence is unacceptable; Lillyhall is not acceptable as a location as a matter of principle; existing businesses and sensitive receptors such as Lakes College would be adversely affected; and the decontamination process should be undertaken at Sellafield.
      • 3.5  Distington Parish Council (adjacent parish) The Environmental Statement as originally submitted gave inadequate information as to the number of sensitive uses in the vicinity, and that therefore it is considered to be an indication that the applicant may have reason to not disclose or discuss what are considered to be the true facts. Therefore an objection is lodged.
        1. 3.13  A total of 79 letters of representation have been received from residents of Cumbria, prospective and actual visitors and local businesses in relation to this application. These letters, with two exceptions, object to the proposal. However some of the letters from businesses point out that generally they support the increase in skills for the nuclear industry. 
        2. 3.14  The objections received from industrial/commercial operators are: That there would be adverse impact on existing employment uses in the Lillyhall area through the deterring of existing and future customers arising from the presence of the proposed facility; the risk to health and safety of employees and sensitive receptors; the potential damage to existing products and businesses if contamination occurred from an ‘incident’ including damage to businesses elsewhere in Cumbria and on the food processing industry in the area; the potential withdrawal of financial investment in a proposed cheese factory and loss of the 100 jobs it would create (to be located at Lillyhall); the adverse effect on the tourism industry through deterrence arising from knowledge of the presence of the facility; this site cannot be considered as an appropriate location for this facility. Objections also refer to the proximity of the proposed development to the Lakes College and that there are more sensitive uses within a defined radius of the application site than were identified in the ES.
        1. 3.15  The letters from individuals raise similar objections to the proposal which are that: the site is an inappropriate location; that future visitors would be deterred from coming because of knowledge of the presence of the facility; there is an unacceptable risk to the health and safety of local employees, residents and visitors; the facility should be located at the LLWR near Drigg or Sellafield; therewould be an adverse effect on local businesses particularly on the tourism industry (most of the letters from further away within Cumbria and from outside the County emphasise that people would not visit the area if the facility was known); and there would be an unacceptable level of increase in the transport of contaminated materials on roads in Cumbria.


4 thoughts on “Radioactive Scrap Metal Overflow Plan at the Port of Workington – The Dark Side of Decommissioning

  1. A few questions come to mind: Does Cyclife UK Limited sell the metal they recycle? If so, they would need a Licence under The Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 would they not? – A quick search appears to show they have no scrap metal licence. The company and those with control are liable to prosecution if this was found to be correct; but separately, a Constable or a Local Authority can serve a “Closure Notice” (shutting-down the site) in exercise of powers at Schedule 2 of the 2013 Act – where a constable or Local Authority “is satisfied” that a scrap metal business is being operated (as defined by Section 21 of The Scrap Meatal Dealers Act) from or at the site/s. One’s suspicion would be increased if the Local Police and Local Authority (District Council) failed to serve a Closure Notice or Prosecute for the offences under the 2013 Act. It would certainly imply some level of complicity if not corruption. Additionally, if Cyclife (or the Directors) were found to operating a scrap metal business (I.e. selling metal after processing it) without a licence – in other words, illegally – their ability to undertake decommissioning work for The NDA in the future would be seriously in doubt.

    1. Many thanks Darryl – that is brilliant info that hadn’t crossed our minds at all …have written asking Cumbria County Council /Allerdale Borough Council for sight of Cyclife’s/EDF’s licence to operate as scrap metal dealers.

  2. Pingback: Three Miles from Preston City Centre – an Intermediate Level Waste Incineration Plant is Planned – RADIATION FREE LAKELAND

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