We have written to Cumbria Wildlife Trust asking them to cancel the “Sea-Coastal Foraging Evening” at St Bees on 18th May. Who doesn’t love to forage for food on the beach? The problem with beaches near Sellafield (and not so near) is that radioactive particles are routinely washed onto the beaches and into the abundant wild food found on our beaches. Sellafield has blighted our coasts and continues to do so with impunity thanks to the criminal nonchalance promoted by events like the one organised by Cumbria Wildlife Trust. The risk to health is very real, especially to the young and the pregnant.

Why are we concerned?

In 2018 a citizen science project carried out by Radiation Free Lakeland volunteers in collaboration with nuclear science undergraduates at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in the US exposed the ease in which dangerous radioactive particles can be picked up from beaches in West Cumbria.

The accuracy of the independent report has been confirmed by the Environment Agency (letter from EA below) . 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 the “low” risk admitted by the Environment Agency.

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 and trusted organisations such as Cumbria Wildlife Trust square up to the nuclear industry and say enough is enough” we will no longer encourage people to forage and play on beaches near Sellafield.

Report by Worcester Polytechnic Institute undergraduate nuclear science students using samples from Radiation Free Lakeland volunteers can be downloaded here….

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@ environment-agency.gov.uk>
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:

https://www.gov.uk/government/ 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: https://www.gov.uk/government/ 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: (https://www.gov.uk/ 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:
(https://www.gov.uk/ 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:
https://www.gov.uk/government/ 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


  1. Pingback: Nuclear news – week to 23 May | Nuclear Australia

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