Britain's Toxic Coast

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Capture the minds   

Seaching for photographs to illustrate our response to the consultation on Post-2025 Nuclear Sites policy, we came across many illustrations provided by NuGen in support of their "Moorside" site.   What is most notable is that they all seem to show only the main site.   There are no depictions of the true impact of the proposed development:  the massive pylons - which seem to embarrass even the National Grid staff we spoke to at Beckermet reading rooms a while back, no illustrations of cooling systems which may include towers akin to those demolished at the Sellafield site across the road.   No apparent acceptance that all the enhancements being put forward by the clever executives are not necessary other than to mask the ugliness and risk that emanate from building the site in the first place.   There would be no need for all the massive road/rail/environment "enhancements" without "Moorside".   Yet, despite the implied necessity for "Moorside", the area has coped very well without NuGen and its impositions.   It is very easy to distort perspective.   The use of a suitable camera angle can include or exclude items which might embarrass if included;  whilst low camera angles can make things appear higher than they would in reality and the converse with high camera angles.   We note the use of this subtle ruse in several of the pro-NuGen graphics, as well as with the artist's impression of the new design pylons.   As an aside, we like to suggest that most of the scenery in Canada is actually hidden by the vast number of trees.   Almost every picture promoting the scenic value is taken from above tree height.   Could this be where the nuclear industry got the idea?

Capture the minds2

We used this in our original illustration of the AP1000 reactor, to match the style of the "Toytown" depiction above.  
Presumably a style used by the developers to enable the capture of the hearts if not the minds of children.

We are most concerned - almost amused - by the suggestion of a water park, with designs illustrating massive fountains and huge pools, when just across the road, Sellafield produces and discharges tritium which has a natural affinity with water with which it combines readily to form tritiated water.  By deploying the spoil from their excavations, it is proposed to "mitigate" some aspects of the huge development by building artificial hills and bumps, which can then be turned into some sort of theme park, complete with visitor centre.   What did happen to Sellafield's Visitor Centre?   There seems to be a possibility that the removed soil and rock could be contaminated - as is the case just across the road, there may be a different type of souvenir on offer.   Given the exposed nature of the site, and judging by our experiences of Braystones, there also seems to be a danger that nature will object to the imposition and attempt to level things off again.

However, perhaps other attractions could include the amusing Collect-the-Particles (prizes for the finder of the particle with highest radioactivity - perhaps a lifetime treatment for leukemia?) and Analyse-the-Chemicals-Washing-Ashore-and-Being-Blown-Onto-the-Site pastime?  

Here's a clue to the possible finds:

Measured concentrations of Cs-137, tritium, Tc-99, Pu-239+240 and Am-241 in representative materials from the Irish Sea were investigated with reference to continuing remobilisation from sediments.

Long time series of monitoring data since the 1960s were employed.Cs-137 in sea water and fish shows peaks in concentrations normalised to discharge rate (NACs) from 1985 to 1989. This is consistent with the time needed for dispersion in sea water following the preceding reductions in discharges; continuing enhancements of NACs above pre-1970s levels follow, consistent with the effect of activity remobilised from sediment.

It is estimated that about 300 TBq of Cs-137 was remobilised from the immediate tidal area around Sellafield from 1989 to 2009.

The enhancements in concentrations continue to this day, with the effect of remobilisation at present being ~6 TBq y(-1), approximately doubling the effect of direct discharges.

To provide an indication for the future, the rate of Cs-137 remobilisation is decreasing with a half-time of ~6 years.   The data for tritium and Tc-99 were examined in view of the interest in these radionuclides. The concentrations broadly reflect the levels of discharges and the need for dispersion.

As expected, there is no evidence of sustained remobilisation of tritium, due to its mobility (or low Kd). The same lack of evidence was found to apply for Tc-99 despite known sorption of a small proportion of the discharged activity by Irish Sea sediments.Pu-239+240, by contrast, shows much evidence of the effect of remobilisation; concentrations in sea water near Sellafield have reduced much more slowly than discharges. At Southerness, ~50 km away, there was no significant reduction in sea water concentrations from 1985 to 1996, and winkles showed an increase then decrease in concentrations over this period, consistent with a spreading of activity. This effect was replicated in mud at Garlieston, ~70 km from Sellafield.For Am-241, the rate of grow-in from Pu-241 has dominated direct discharges since the late 1970s.

Grow-in continues today in the Irish Sea at the rate of ~8 TBq y(-1), ~200 times the rate of direct discharge. Winkles at Southerness show evidence of a spreading effect of Am-241, with an increase then decrease from 1985 to 1996.   At Garlieston there was an increase in concentrations in mud from 1985 to 1997, and at Carlingford in Northern Ireland the concentration of Am-241 in mud appears to be increasing still.   This effect of the spread of activity away from Sellafield may continue, at least in the near future.

Ref:  Artificial radionuclides in the Irish Sea from Sellafield: remobilisation revisited.   Hunt J1, Leonard K, Hughes L

Even the proposed hillocks and mounds, presumably what NuGen consider to be mitigating features, will be comprised of soil and rocks which have been exposed to Sellafield's pollution:

Sellafield Soil Analysis

Source:  Sellafield Ground Water

It is noteworthy, of course, that the slide depicted and the quantities of polluted materials is in addition to the vast quantities of other dangerous materials on the site.   The above reference also included the following information, which seems rather relevant to the NuGen site:

"The depth to bedrock beneath the superficial deposits varies from 3m to 60m due to the presence of "channels" in the buried bedrock surface, probably representing pre-glacial valleys that were infilled with sediments during the Ice Age.   The main buried channel or valley lies to the north west of the site, roughly associated with the route of the River Ehen.   A side buried channel from this extends east to run under the Separation Area in the middle of the site.   These channel features are possibly partially aligned with faults or zones of weakness in the bedrock, and the top of the sandstone generally can be weathered and in place broken up."

Source:  Sellafield Ground Water

Although reprocessing is going to cease, the waste containment functions of Sellafield will continue for another 110 years at an estimated cost of up to £162 billion - at today's estimate.   Then of course there are the delays and breakdowns, inflation, etc.   The true cost is likely to increase at least in line with inflation.

The state of the Sellafield site has been discussed in scores of critical reports by various Commons Committees, by the NAO, by commissioned consultancies, and by many environmental groups.   Also by reports from several European Governments, by the HSE, by RWMAC, and not least by several TV programmes in the 1990s alleging political dirty tricks and manipulation of Government Ministers.   The latter being a point we laboured in our submission to the NPS consultation on Post-2025 1GW reactor siting.

Nuclear Management Partners stated in 2012:

"There is a mass of very hazardous [nuclear] waste onsite in storage conditions that are extraordinarily vulnerable, and in facilities that are well past their designated life."

The National Audit Office (NAO) stated "these tanks pose significant risks to people and the environment".   One official review published in The Lancet concluded that, at worst, an explosive release from the tanks could kill two million Britons and require the evacuation of an area reaching from Glasgow to Liverpool.   These dangerous tanks have also been the subject of repeated complaints from Ireland and Norway who fear their countries could be contaminated if explosions or fires were to occur.

Source:   Dr. Ian Fairlie.

Again we have to ask whether it is prudent to be planning to buld within the safety zone of such a plant?

On Oct 23,2001, a report commissioned by the European Parliament’s Scientific and Technological Option Assessment Committee, as part of an ongoing inquiry into possible toxic effects of nuclear reprocessing at these plants, said the level of radioactivity released into the environment from the plants corresponded to “a large-scale nuclear accident every year”.   The report, "Possible Toxic Effects from the Nuclear Reprocessing Plants at Sellafield (UK) and Cap de la Hague (France)", was written by antinuclear campaigners WISE-Paris.


Amazing, too, is the number of large companies lining up with fairly advanced plans to be involved in the proposed construction at "Moorside".   From architects to landscape designers the list is endless.   How many of these companies and individuals will be affected by their designs, or will suffer financially should the project not be forthcoming?   Still, in their latest propaganda sheet, NuGen CEO Tom Samson said:

"We’ve come a long way from the uncertain early months of 2017, when events unconnected with the Moorside Project caused NuGen’s parent companies to take a decision to leave the project, and sell the company. Now, the certainty increases by the day as Toshiba, NuGen and KEPCO move steadily towards concluding a deal which will see the South Korean utility become the shareholder of NuGen."


Sorry?   "Events unconnected with the Moorside Project"?   Is he referring to the deliberate, long-term falsification of accounts by the main Moorside partner, Toshiba, followed by their application for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in America.   How convenient to just wipe such corruption from the record in a nice bland way.   After all, Toshiba is the sole remaining backer for NuGen since Engie backed out when Toshiba filed for bankruptcy.

Other observers are somewhat more cynical:

"The consortium behind the plans to build a giant 3.8GW nuclear power plant in Moorside in Cumbria was forced to defend the future of the £10bn project after the Japanese conglomerate said it would scale back its work outside of Japan after booking a 712.5bn yen (£5bn) writedown in its nuclear power business."

No mention either of the withdrawal of other major contributors who have seen the folly of the project:

"The NuGen venture has been dogged by setbacks since it was formed in 2010 by SSE, GDF Suez and Iberdrola, targeting first power in 2023. SSE withdrew a year later, selling its 25pc stake to the other two partners, before cash-strapped Spanish utility Iberdrola quit in 2013, selling its 50pc stake to Toshiba."

Toshiba CEO Resigns

Nothing to do with us, guv, honest.   We've never met him.


There is surely a difference between putting a gloss on something and deliberately misleading people?   Then again, this isn't the first time that the industry has set out to promote itself by ignoring or distorting reports of bad news.

The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2014

Elsewhere we find that :

Some of the key features of the World Nuclear Industry Status Report, 2014, include:

Declining role.  

    Nuclear power’s share of global commercial primary energy production declined from the 2012 low of 4.5%, a level last seen in 1984, to a new low of 4.4%.


    The average age of the world’s operating nuclear reactors to increase and by mid-2014 stood at 28.5 years.

Construction Delays.

    At least 49—including three quarters of the Chinese projects—of the total of 69 construction sites have encountered delays, many of them multi-annual. Construction of two units in Taiwan was halted.

Project Cancellations.

    Several projects have been cancelled and new programs indefinitely delayed, including in the Czech Republic and in Vietnam.

Operating Costs Soar.  

    Nuclear generating costs jumped by 16 percent in real terms in three years in France, and several units are shut down in the U.S. because income does not cover operating costs.
    The economic survival of nuclear plants is also threatened in Belgium, Germany and Sweden.

Renewables vs. Nuclear.  

    In 2013 alone, 32 gigawatts (GW) of wind and 37 GW of solar were added to the world power grids.   By the end of 2013, China had 91 GW of wind power and 18 GW of solar capacity installed,
    solar exceeding for the first time operating nuclear capacity.   China added four times more solar than nuclear capacity in the past year, and Spain generated more power from wind than from
    any other source, outpacing nuclear for the first time.    It is also the first time that wind has become the largest electricity generating source over an entire year in any country. Spain has thus joined
    the list of nuclear countries that produce more electricity from new renewables - excluding large hydro-power - than from nuclear power that includes Brazil, China, Germany, India and Japan.

Source:  The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2014 Mycle Schneider Consulting Project.

The fuill report can be found at:   It makes for an interesting counterpoint to the propaganda from the vested interests of the nuclear industry and government.

Crystal Ball or Just a Guess?

The Energy Act 2008 stipulates that plant operators are required to submit a Funded Decommissioning Programme (FDP) before construction on a new nuclear power station is allowed to commence.   The Funded Decommissioning Programme must contain detailed and costed plans for decommissioning, waste management and disposal.   The government will set a fixed unit price for disposal of intermediate-level wastes and used fuel, which will include a significant risk premium and escalate with inflation.   During plant operation, operators will need to set aside funds progressively into a secure and independent fund.   Ownership of wastes will transfer to the government according to a schedule to be agreed as part of the programme.

Source of table:

It is difficult to see how anyone can assess decommissioning costs 50 years in advance.   Waste management costs seem similarly fraught, whilst waste disposal is impossible - leastways until such time as a viable method of safe disposal has been devised.   Is shoving it all down a leaky hole good enough?   They haven't even managed to find anywhere to do that yet!   We aren't scientists, but seem to recall being told that glass is not a solid, but a liquid.   Not a very viscous liquide, but liquid nonetheless.   We were told about the varying thickness of medieval window glass that was thicker at the bottom than the top as a result of that viscosity.   The time period being around three or four hundred years.   How much distortion can be expected in the stored materials and how long before the containers corrode sufficiently to permit egress of the contents?

Using a selective interpretation of some YouGov statistics, the above document seeks to justify its pro-nuclear stance.   A lovely example is:  

In July 2012 a YouGov survey found that 63% of Britons supported the use of nuclear power, and only 22% opposed building new plants on brownfield sites.   Twice as many supported electricity market reform as opposed it (35% and 18% respectively) and interest in global warming was low – 59% compared with 72% in 2008.  A YouGov survey in October 2012 found that 40% of the 1734 people polled felt that the UK government should use more nuclear power than at present, up from 35% in November 2011.   Maintaining current levels was preferred by 21%, while 20% felt that there should be less nuclear power than at present (down from 27% in 2011). 54% of men, and only 26% of women, felt that there should be more nuclear.   Of women, 23% supported the status quo, 25% called for a reduction in nuclear and 25% were unsure. Apart from nuclear, 72% were in favour of increasing solar provision, 55% in favour of more wind farms, and 45% wanted less coal-fired generation.


63% of Britons - really?   How was this survey conducted?   YouGov are mainly an on-line polling company.   What was the sample size?   Was every British citizen's opinion sought or were the sample results merely extrapolated - a completely different proposition?   We must be deemed either to be non-Britons or extra-terrestial, as we have never been asked, neither have any of our acquaintances.   How did they obtain the data sources to permit them to contact everyone?   How did they contact foreign residents from Britain?   Did they genuinely contact all 65, 500,000 Britons?   What was the specific question asked of all these people and who framed it?   In Cumbria we have seen some classic examples of questions framed by the nuclear supporters that produce an answer to a rather different question to that actually posed, the result being deemed to be in favour of the nuclear industry, of course.   How were the credentials of respondents confirmed?   Was there any check on veracity of the findings, or the integrity of those consulted?   How did they confirm the responses to even the basic question of male/female?   What about "others"?   Above all, what does the matter of gender matter?

Does the statement that 40% of the 1734 people polled [actually just 693.6 people - which equates to a mere 0.00001% of the population - hardly representative or meaningful at all] felt that the UK government should use more nuclear power than at present truly support the planned expansion?   Turn that around and one could equally as well state that 60% did not feel that the UK government should use more nuclear power than at present.   The disparity between this 40% and the 72% said to be in favour of solar, the 55% and 45% should surely indicate to the government that the alternative methods of generation are more popular.   Does this misrepresentative sample suggest anything like a full consultation?   Over how long was the consultion spread?   Where did the consultees live?   Had they been questioned about their experiences of radiation-exposure related health problems?   Were they aware of the problems of waste disposal, or the finfancial implications of nuclear expansion, or had they been taken in by the kind of superficiality of data that this survey so adequately exemplifies?   The fluctuation in views only demonstates the weaknesses of such surveys.   Only by questionning every citizen following an adequate explanation of the facts can credence be given to the results, yet the government are relying on such flawed data to formulate policies which will have repercussions for thousands of years in the future.

As Mark Twain said, "Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please".   The nuclear industry's questionnaires merely add to the distortion by sharp practice and "clever" formulation of questions.

Read Between the Lines

On his very interesting website, Dr. Fairlie examines the employment opportunities within the nuclear industry and illustrates the misconceptions arising as a result of what we are led to believe and the reality.   The number of jobs which NuGen will be able to provide seem to range between 600 and 20,000.   A lot of people will need to be brought into Cumbria to cope with the demand, and wages will have to be high.   Have they factored this into their sums?

Dr. Fairlie explains:

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) data for 2014 indicated only 15,500 direct jobs in nuclear power compared with 43,500 direct jobs in renewables –  i.e. renewable energy companies provided about  three times more direct jobs than nuclear.

This is important as a few large trade unions and the TUC use the jobs argument as their main reason for defending nuclear power.   These unions influence Labour Party policies.

Recently, the ONS published a new updated study “UK environmental accounts: Low carbon and renewable energy economy survey, final estimates: 2015”.

This study reveals that in 2015 the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) direct jobs in nuclear had declined to 12,400, while the number of FTE direct jobs in the renewable forms of electricity generation had increased to 48,900 – in total about four times more than in nuclear.   The disparity between them is increasing.

[Note:  These data are not printed physically in the report, but they are electronically.   Go to Figure 2 in the online version of the ONS report and place one’s cursor on the relevant bars of the histogram.   The revealed percentage figures can easily be converted to absolute numbers.]

In fact, the ONS figure for nuclear energy is inaccurate and misleading, as about 9,400 of the 12,400 nuclear workers do not produce electricity at all.   They are engaged at Sellafield in Cumbria, mostly in nuclear reprocessing.   The reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel is a filthy, dangerous, polluting and essentially useless activity which produces no electricity: instead, it consumes a great deal of it.   Reprocessing accounts for much of NDA’s annual operating bill of approximately £3 billion for which taxpayers pick up the tab.

Conclusion:  In round terms, in 2015 nuclear electricity generation provided about 3,000 direct jobs and the renewable electricity generation provided about 49,000 direct jobs, i.e. about 16 times more.