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The United Kingdom has numerous nuclear power stations which are not reported on in this Website. The two major sources of radioactive contamination in the United Kingdom are the Dounreay Nuclear Facility on the North coast of Scotland, about which very little information is available, and the Sellafield fuel reprocessing facility in northern England, of which only a few of the most interesting studies pertaining to Sellafield effluents are cited below. Sellafield is anomalous in that it is the one major fuel reprocessing facility where the government has had the decency to document radioactive effluents and their environmental impact, as well as (since 1980) to attempt to mitigate the volume of these discharges. Unfortunately there has been significant increase in radioactive effluents from this location due to the new Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant, (THORP), now accepting commercial spent fuel from Japan, France and other locations for reprocessing. Sellafield is also the site of the 31 year old antiquated MAGNOX nuclear power facility and an associated reprocessing plant for MAGNOX fuel, where spent fuel is reprocessed in a weapons production complex, and which was the source of most radioactive effluents prior to the construction of the new THROP facility. The fuel reprocessing facilities at Sellafield have the capacity to reprocess spent fuel from part or all of western Europe's 152 nuclear power plants. These reprocessing facilities create huge volumes of liquid high-level radioactive wastes and highly toxic mixed wastes; the current plan to dispose of most of these wastes in geological formations underlying the Sellafield facility have the potential to create a radioactive plume as large as any Russian or US weapons production plume of the 1960's. Such stone age radioactive waste disposal technology will constitute what is in essence the world's largest french drain (see RAD 4: Definitions).

Site of the world's first fast (breeder) reactor, this nuclear complex plays a key role in producing plutonium for weapons production in Britain. All three reactors here are now closed, but a fuel reprocessing facility at this location will be accepting spent fuel from an Australian plant (Lucas Heights Research Reactor) for recycling. This location is the focus of extensive controversy pertaining to uncontained disposal of plutonium and other types of radioactive waste. During the operation of the original reactors a deep shaft was constructed within the research station's security fence to access a waste tunnel sloping out to sea; millions of curies or more of uncontained high-level waste generated at these facilities were disposed of in this shaft. In 1977 this shaft was the location of a hydrogen explosion which sent radioactive wastes into the environment; the shaft was then sealed, but leakage continues. A recent evaluation of this waste shaft indicates it will be breached by the ocean in approximately 200 years, allowing near total release of its radioactive contents. Recent reports documenting the widespread presence of plutonium on local beaches etc. will be posted by RADNET as soon as they are obtained from MAFF and/or environmental organizations located in Scotland.

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food & Scottish Environment Protection Agency. (September 1997). Radioactivity in Food and the Environment, 1996. RIFE-2. MAFF and SEPA, London, UK.

Sellafield (Windscale) Fuel Reprocessing Facility 

The nuclear fuel reprocessing facility at Sellafield, formerly called Windscale, has been the source of enormous releases of radioactivity to the environment since it became operational in the early 1950's. In October of 1957 the Windscale facility, as it was called then, was the location of a nuclear accident which allegedly released the following inventories of radioactivity to the environment: 0.7 PBq 131I; 0.04 PBq 137Cs; 4 TBq 89Sr and 0.3 TBq 90Sr (Aarkrog, 1990). Asker Aarkrog gives the following encapsulation of Sellafield as a source point:

"... waterborne discharges of 137Cs from the nuclear reprocessing plant Sellafield in the UK have varied throughout the years. Maximum releases occurred around 1975, when about 4-5 PBq were discharged annually. Since then, the releases have been reduced significantly....A substantial part of the radiocesium discharged from Sellafield (10-15 PBq 137Cs) is probably still to be found in the Arctic Ocean." (Aarkrog, 1990, p.25-26)

With the 1994 opening of the thermal oxide reprocessing plant (THORP) at Sellafield, which is now reprocessing more than 200 tons of nuclear fuel from Japan and European countries annually, Asker Aarkrog's summary needs further updating, as what was a trend of declining discharges to the Irish Sea appears to have been reversed. A recent report by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland has noted a sharp increase in levels of Technetium 99 in seaweed collected along the east coast of Ireland in August of 1994, according to a November 1, 1996 article in the Irish Times. RADNET is seeking, and will annotate and post a citation of this report as soon as it is obtained from the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland.

The following is the mean activity discharges rates in curies per month to the Irish Sea, 1957-1967 as provided by the Panel on Radioactivity in the Marine Environment (1971, pg. 32).
Radionuclide 1957 1958 1959 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967
106Ru 2218 3522 2956 3302 2095 1916 2781 1924 1752 2077 1436
103Ru 300 492 746 964 265 153 800 100 150 205 186
90Sr 137 210 129 43 41 85 46 81 97 76 116
89Sr 248 72 170 82 114 42 14 16 14 7 12
144Ce 215 497 583 74 180 200 116 267 288 571 1142
91Y+rare earth 300 567 506 83 201 125 90 90 73 75 203
137Cs 310 516 165 76 91 92 31 111 97 100 132
95Zr 59 210 415 196 140 78 47 1797 1479 1172 1566
95Nb 535 510 845 523 658 356 272 1735 2803 1947 2143
Total beta 5366 6846 7659 6461 3981 3742 4020 5055 4560 5464 6022
Total alpha 4.8 5.2 5.6 6.8 11.1 15.5 19.0 23.5 33.8 48.8 79.6

The UNSCEAR report of 1982 updates liquid release data through 1979 with the following yearly summaries:
Annual discharge (TBq)
Radionuclide 1977 1978 1979
89Sr 9.9 7.5
90Sr 427 597 250
95Zr 92 82 60
95Nb 203 148 98
99Tc 179 43
103Ru 8.5 5.8
106Ru 816 810 390
125Sb 29 14
129I 0.11 0.074 0.12
134Cs 594 404 240
137Cs 4480 4090 2600
144Ce 152 104 83
152Eu 10 3.7
154Eu 38 1.9
238Pu 36 12 12
239,240Pu 36 46 37
241Pu 981 1773 1500
241Am 3.6 7.9 7.9
Aarkrog, A., et. al. (1987). Technetium-99 and Cesium-134 as long distance tracers in Arctic waters. Estuarine, Coastal Shelf Sci., 24, 637-647. Assinder, D.J. (April 8, 1999). A review of the occurrence and behaviour of neptunium in the Irish sea. J. of Env. Radioactivity. 44(2-3). pg. 335-347.

Aston, S.R. and Stanners, D.A. (1981). Plutonium transport to and deposition and immobility in Irish Sea intertidal sediments. Nature, 289, 581-582.
June 1978 River Esk, 10 km S. of Windscale Sediment profiles; total core inventory, 1-15 cm 239,240Pu 945,600 pCi/15 cm cone (34,814 Bq/kg)
June 1978 River Esk, 10 km S. of Windscale Sediment profiles; total core inventory, 1-15 cm 238Pu 191,500 pCi/15 cm cone (9,550 Bq/kg)

Baxter, A.J., Camplin, W.C. and Steele, A.K. (1992). Radiocaesium in the seas of northern Europe:  1975-79. Fish. Res. Data Rep. MAFF Direct. Fish Res., Lowestoft. 28. pg. 1-166.

Baxter, A.J. and Camplin, W.C. (1993). Radiocaesium in the seas of northern Europe:  1970-74. Fish. Res. Data Rep. MAFF Direct. Fish Res., Lowestoft. 30. pg. 1-111.

British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. (1978-1989). Annual reports on radioactive discharges and monitoring of the environment. BNFL, PLC, Risley, Warrington, Cheshire.

British Nuclear Fuels Ldt. (1998). Unpublished documents and personal communications on accepting spent fuel from several U.S. nuclear power plants.  See RAD12 5-E: Maine Yankee Atomic Power Company: Decommissioning Debacle Continued: FOE Exposes Secret Plan to Dump US Nuclear Waste in Britain.

Brown, Justin, Kolstad, A.K., Lind, B., Rudjord, A.L. and Strand, P. (1998). Technetium-99 contamination in the North Sea and in Norwegian coastal areas:  1996 and 1997. StrålevernRapport. 3. http://www.nrpa.no/Top/Rapport/Srap98-3.htm.

Brown, Paul. (January 2, 1999). British warned of nuclear waste leaks. The Guardian. Saturday ROP Edition. pg. 31.

COMARE and RWMAC. (May 1995). Joint report:  Potential health effects and possible sources of radioactive particles found in the vicinity of the Dounreay nuclear establishment. HMSO, London.

Eakins, J.D., Lally, A.E., Cambray, R.S., Kilworth, D., Morrison, R.T. and Pratley, F. (1984). Plutonium in sheep feces as an indicator of deposition on vegetation. J. Environ. Radioactivity, 1, 87-105.

Fulker, M.J., Jackson, D., Leonard, D.R., McKay, K. and John, C. (March 1998). Doses due to man-made radionuclides in terrestrial wild foods near Sellafield. J. Radiological Protection. 18(1), pg. 3-13. Hallstadium, L., Aarkrog, A., Dahlgaard, H., Holm, E., Boelskifte, S., Duniec, S. and Persson, B. (1986). Plutonium and americium in Arctic Waters, the North Sea and Scottish and Irish coastal zones. J. Environ. Radioactivity, 4, 11-30. Hamilton, E.I. (April 8, 1999). The role of near-shore industrial waste releases in the dispersion of radionuclides in the NE Irish sea. J. of Env. Radioactivity. 44(2-3). pg. 297-333.

Hamilton-Taylor, J., Kelly, M., Mudge, S. and Bradshaw, K. (1987). Rapid remobilization of plutonium from estuarine sediments. J. Environ. Radioactivity, 5, 409-423.

Hunt, G.J. (1984). Radioactivity in surface and coastal waters of the British Isles, 1982. Aquatic Environment Monitoring Report, No. 11. Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food, Lowestoft. Hunt, G.J. (1985). Timescales for dilution and dispersion of transuranics in the Irish Sea near Sellafield. Sci. Total Environ. 46. pg. 261-278.

Hunt, G.J. (1992). External doses to the public from beta-emitters in the aquatic environment near Springfields and Sellafield. J. Radiol. Prot. 12(4). pg. 233-238.

Hunt, G.J. (1995). Radiation doses to critical groups since the early 1950s due to disposals of liquid radioactive waste from Sellafield. In: International symposium on environmental impact of radioactive releases. IAEA-SM-339/16. IAEA, Vienna.

Hunt, G.J. and Smith, B.D. (April 8, 1999). The radiological impact of actinides discharged to the Irish sea. J. of Env. Radioactivity. 44(2-3). pg. 389-403.

Hunt, G.J., Smith, B.D. and Camplin, W.C. (1998). Recent changes in liquid radioactive waste disposals from Sellafield to the Irish Sea:  Monitoring of the environmental consequences and radiological implications. Rad. Prot. Dosim. 75. pg. 149-153.

Institute of Terrestrial Ecology. (1987). Radionuclide concentrations in bird tissues, their foods and feeding areas near Ravenglass.  DOE Report No. DOE/RW/88029. Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, Cumbria, UK.
1986 Ravenglass, 10 km. S. of plant Shelduck feces 239,240Pu 3,535 Bq/kg dry weight
1986 Ravenglass Shelduck feces 239Pu 887 Bq/kg dry weight
1986 Ravenglass Molluscs 106Ru 891.7 Bq/kg fresh weight
1986 Ravenglass Molluscs 137Cs 836.2 Bq/kg fresh weight

Jones, D.G., Roberts, P.D., Strutt, M.H., Higgo, J.J. and  Davis, J.R. (April 8, 1999). Distribution of 137Cs and inventories of 238Pu, 239/240Pu, 241Am and 137Cs in Irish sea intertidal sediments. J. of Env. Radioactivity. 44(2-3). pg. 159-189.

Kershaw, P.J., Denoon, D.C. and Woodhead, D.S. (April 8, 1999). Observations on the redistribution of plutonium and americium in the Irish sea sediments, 1978 to 1996: Concentrations and inventories. J. of Env. Radioactivity. 44(2-3). pg. 191-221.

Kinlen, L.J., Craft, A.W. and Parker, L. (June 1997). The excess of childhood leukaemia near Sellafield: A commentary on the fourth COMARE report. Journal of Radiological Protection.  17(2). pg. 63-71.

Leonard, K.L., McCubbin, D., Brown, J., Bonfield, R. and Brooks, T. (1997). A summary report of the distribution of technetium-99 in UK coastal waters. Radioprotection Colloques. 32. pg. 109-114.

Leonard, K.L., McCubbin, D., Blowers, P. and Taylor, B.R. (April 8, 1999). Dissolved plutonium and americium in surface waters of the Irish sea, 1973-1996. J. of Env. Radioactivity. 44(2-3). pg. 129-158.

Leonard, K.L., McCubbin, D., Brown, J., Bonfield, R. and Brooks, T. (1997). Distribution of technetium-99 in UK coastal waters. Marine Pollution Bulletin. 34(8). pg. 628-636.

Livens, F.R. and Baxter, M.S. (1988). Particle size and radionuclide levels in some West Cumbrian soils. The Science of the Total Environment. 70. pg. 1-17.

Livingston, H.D., Bowen, V.T. and Kupferman, S.L. (1982). Radionuclides from Windscale discharges I: Non-equilibrium tracer experiments in high-latitude oceanography. Journal of Marine Research. 40(1). pg. 253-272. Mackenzie, A.B., Scott, R.D. and Williams, T.M. (1987). Mechanisms for northwards dispersal of Sellafield waste. Nature, 329, 3, 42-44.
1985 Wigtown Bay Sand + silt sediment 239Pu 194 Bq/kg
1985 Wigtown Bay Sand + silt sediment 137Cs 1030 Bq/kg
Mayall, A., Cabianca, T. and Simmonds, J.R. (December 1996). An assessment of the present and future implications of radioactive contamination of west Cumbria. Journal of Radiological Protection. 16(4). pg. 227-236.

McCarthy, W. and Nicholls, T.M. (1990). Mass-spectrometric analysis of plutonium in soils near Sellafield. J. Environ. Radioactivity, 12, 1, 1-12.
Sept. 1985 Newbiggin Avg. of 7 silt samples 239,240Pu 2,563 Bq/kg

Mccubbin, D., Leonard, K.S. and Emerson, H.S. (April 8, 1999). The role of thermal and photochemical reactions upon the remobilisation of Pu from an Irish sea sediment. J. of Env. Radioactivity. 44(2-3). pg. 253-273.

McKay, W.A., Bonnett, P.J.P., Barr, H.M. and Howorth, J.M. (1993). Radiological assessment of radioactivity in tide washed pastures in South-West Scotland. J. Environ. Radioactivity, 21, 2, 77-106.

MacKenzie, A.B., Cook, G.T. and McDonald, P. (April 8, 1999). Radionuclide distributions and particle size associations in Irish sea surface sediments: Implications for actinide dispersion. J. of Env. Radioactivity. 44(2-3). pg. 275-296.

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. (1997). Abnormal release of ruthenium-106 from BNFL Sellafield. MAFF, London. http://www.maff.gov.uk/food/incid_1/bnflrept.htm.

Mitchell, P.I., Condren, O.M., Vintro, L.L. and Mcmahon, C.A. (April 8, 1999). Trends in plutonium, americium and radiocaesium accumulation and long-term bioavailability in the western Irish sea mud basin. J. of Env. Radioactivity. 44(2-3). pg. 223-251.

Norris, R.S., Burrows, A.S. and Fieldhouse, R.W. (1994). Nuclear weapons data book. Vol. 5, British, French, and Chinese nuclear weapons. Westview Press, Boulder, San Francisco, Oxford.

O'Donnell, R.G., Mitchell, P.I., Priest, N.D., Strange, L., Fox, A., Henshaw, D.L. and Long, S.C. (1997). Variations in the concentration of plutonium, strontium-90 and total alpha-emitters in human teeth collected within the British Isles. The Science of the Total Environment. 201. pg. 235-243.

Oldfield, F., Richardson, N., Appleby, P.G. (1993). 241Am and 137Cs activity in fine grained saltmarsh sediments from parts of the N.E. Irish Sea Shoreline. J. Environ. Radioactivity, 19, 1, 1-24.
1990 Galloway, Ireland  Salt marsh sediment 241Am 2,166 Bq/kg
1990 Galloway, Ireland Salt marsh sediment 241Am 434,000 Bq/m2
1990 Galloway, Ireland Salt marsh sediment 137Cs 5,159 Bq/kg
1990 Galloway, Ireland Salt marsh sediment 137Cs 1,038,000 Bq/m2
1990 South Cumbria Salt marsh sediment 241Am 783,000 Bq/m2
Parker, Honorable J. (January 26, 1978). The windscale inquiry. Report presented to the Secretary of State for the Environment. Vol 1. Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London.

Preston, A. and Jeffries, D.F. (1967). The assessment of the principal public radiation exposure from, and the resulting control of, discharges of aqueous radioactive waste from the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority factory at Windscale, Cumberland.
1959 South Wales Porphyra (seaweed) 106Ru 40,000 Bq/kg

Ryan, T.P., Dowdall, A.M., Long, S., Smith, V., Pollard, D. and Cunningham, J. D. (April 8, 1999). Plutonium and americium in fish, shellfish and seaweed in the Irish environment and their contribution to dose. J. of Env. Radioactivity. 44(2-3). pg. 349-369.

Stanners, D.A. and Aston, S.R. (1982). Desorption of 106Ru, 134Cs, 137Cs, 144Ce and 241Am from Intertidal Sediment contaminated by nuclear fuel reprocessing effluents. Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science, 14, 6, 687-691.

Stewart, S.P. and Wilkins, B.T. (1985). Aerial distributions of 129I in West Cumbrian Soils. J. Environ. Radioactivity, 2, 175-182. Strand, P. (June 1, 1997). Radioactive contamination in the Arctic: Main sources. NRPA Bulletin. 1-97. http://www.nrpa.no/Top/Info/Info-97/Ssi197.htm.

Thompson, N., Cross, J.E., Miller, R.M. and Day, J.P. (1982). Alpha and gamma radioactivity in Fucus vesiculosus from the Irish Sea. Environmental Pollution. 3. pg. 11-19.
1980 5 km. N. of Sellafield Fucus vesiculosus 239Pu 57,230 pCi/kg wet weight
1980 5 km. N. of Sellafield Fucus vesiculosus 137Cs 144,500 pCi/kg wet weight
1990 8 km S. of Sellafield Fucus vesiculosus 106Ru 161,900 pCi/kg
1990 8 km S. of Sellafield Fucus vesiculosus 95Zr 1,034,900 pCi/kg

Titley, J.G., Harvey, M.P., Mobbs, S.F., Bexon, A., Penfold, J.S.S. and Cooper, J.R. (1997).  Assessment of the radiological implications of dumping in Beauforts Dyke and other coastal waters from the 1950s. NRPB-M859. National Radiological Protection Board, Chilton, UK.

Wilkins, B.T. et. al. (April 8, 1999). Potential incursion of marine sediment inland during storms: The radiological importance of actinider. J. of Env. Radioactivity. 44(2-3). pg. 371-388.

Wilkins, B.T., Simmonds, J.R. and Cooper, J.R. (1994). Assessment of the present and future implications of radioactive contamination of the Irish Sea coastal region of Cumbria. NRPB-R267. HMSO, London.

Woodhead, D.S. (April 8, 1999). Actinides in the Irish Sea. J. of Env. Radioactivity. 44(2-3). pg. 127-128.

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