from Sellafield 150 times worse in north east
The Irish Independent, January 2002
By Treacy Hogan, Environment Correspondent
RADIOACTIVE contamination from Sellafield found in seaweed is 150 times
higher on the north east coast of Ireland than in seaweed on the south
and west coasts.
The disclosure was made yesterday by the State's nuclear watchdog,
which demanded that British Nuclear Fuels provide any evidence that
controversial storage tanks at the plant can withstand a major terrorist
Highlighting new concerns about the safety of tanks holding liquid
high-level radioactive waste, the Radiological Protection Institute
of Ireland (RPII) warned the risk of a terrorist attack there had increased
since September 11.
The RPII has also revealed the consequences of an accident stemming
from the storage of the liquid waste have not been properly assessed,
and that this represents a serious threat for the country.
In its annual report published yesterday the RPII said the discharge
of radioactive waste from the Sellafield reprocessing plant is still
"the dominant source of contamination in the Irish marine environment."
The RPII said levels of technetium-99 radioactivity in seaweed were
150 times higher on the north-east coast than in seaweed on the south
and west coasts.
However, it said that radioactive doses from Sellafield are very small
and did not constitute a significant health risk. Technetium-99 levels
in fish and shellfish continued to be very low.
People were advised that it was safe to eat seafood landed at Irish
ports and to enjoy the maritime recreational amenities such as swimming,
walking on the beach or fishing.
But while the levels of technetium-99 had begun to decrease they were
still considerably above pre-1994 levels and remained "a significant
cause of concern."
It warned: "Any contamination of the Irish Sea arising out of
practices at Sellafield is highly objectionable from an Irish viewpoint."
The report said the most significant radioactive contaminants from
Sellafield are mainly carried across the Irish sea to the Irish coast,
but have even been detected on the Norwegian coast and in Arctic waters.
Although plutonium is deposited in sediment in the Irish sea, it can
be released from the seabed and this has become an important contributors
to the contamination in the western Irish sea, it says.
The radiation dose to consumers who eat substantial quantities of seafood
each day was estimated to be less than two microsieverts, with a small
extra dose from recreational activities such as swimming, walking on
beaches or fishing.
The size of the dosage was put in context by the RPII: the annual dose
to an individual rom all sources of radiation can range from 2,000-20,000
microsieverts or higher in cases of high exposure to radon gas.
The RPII also said that radiation from the Chernobyl disaster is still
affecting sheep grazing in upland areas, although regular consumption
was not a significant health hazard.
There was a "small but continuing" upward trend for krypton-85
radioactive gas coming from the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel at
Sellafield, and at La Hague in France and in Russia. However the doses,
monitored at Clonskeagh in Dublin, were still very small and not a health
hazard, according to the RPII.