Risk of nuclear leak sparks call for installation of flood defences

Managers of a nuclear waste dump on the Cumbria coast have been ordered to start preparations to defend the site against floods and erosion, amid fears that radioactive material could one day leak into the sea. Much of the waste buried in vaults and concrete trenches at the Low Level Waste Repository (LLWR) near the village of Drigg originates from one of the world’s most contaminated nuclear sites, Sellafield, a few miles away. The waste dump is expected ultimately to require protective flood barriers.

Experts at the Environment Agency fear that future generations could suffer from waste with a long radioactive half-life leaking into the Irish Sea as the pace of climate change quickens and its effects become less predictable. The agency has been heavily criticised for its tardy response to the recent floods. Campaigners seized on the warnings yesterday as proof that toxic waste should not be buried by Britain’s coastline, particularly after the devastation caused this winter by seas pounding the coastline and by flooding rivers inland. Dr David Lowry, a member of Nuclear Waste Advisory Associates and the Department of Energy’s Geological Disposal Implementation Board for Radioactive Waste, said: “One of the certainties of climate change is that the sea level will rise – therefore, developing a huge nuclear waste storage site on the coastline is a problem for future generations.”

Independent 23rd February 2014

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