Britain's nuclear dump is virtually certain to be eroded by rising sea levels and to contaminate the Cumbrian coast with large amounts of radioactive waste, according to an internal document released by the Environment Agency (EA).
The document suggests that in retrospect it was a mistake to site the Drigg Low-Level Waste Repository (LLWR) on the Cumbrian coast because of its vulnerability to flooding. "It is doubtful whether the location of the LLWR site would be chosen for a new facility for near-surface radioactive waste disposal if the choice were being made now," it says.
The EA document estimates that the one million cubic metres of radioactive waste disposed of over the last 55 years by the civil and military nuclear industry at the site, near the Sellafield nuclear complex in west Cumbria, is going to start leaking on to the shoreline in "a few hundred to a few thousand years from now".
The agency voices concerns about "the potential appearance on the beach and in its accessible surroundings, during the process of erosion, of discrete items carrying a significant burden of radioactivity individually". They could range from tiny particles to larger objects such as hand tools that have become contaminated during use at Britain's nuclear sites then subsequently disposed of at Drigg, the document says.