Irish Sea radioactivity `worse than at nuclear site'


There is more radioactive plutonium in the sediments off the Sellafield plant in the Irish Sea than at the underwater Russian Novaya Zemlya nuclear weapons test site, according to Greenpeace.

The environmental group yesterday released further data arising from its ongoing survey of the Irish Sea. It has been measuring radioactive contamination in sediments and seaweed along British and Irish coasts for several weeks. Last week it visited Dundalk bay, retrieving seaweed as part of this activity. The data released yesterday related to the plutonium and caesium content of sediment taken adjacent to a Sellafield waste-discharge pipe two kilometres off the Cumbrian coast.

Laboratories in Britain and Germany measured caesium levels of 1.2 and 2.3 million becquerels per kilogram of sediment. Plutonium analysis completed in Britain recorded levels of 35,554 becquerels per kilogram, according to Greenpeace. This exceeded levels recorded at the Novaya Zemlya site by a joint US, Canadian and Russian expedition, the group stated.

These high levels were not matched on this side of the Irish Sea, according to the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland. Radiation exposures caused to people here by Sellafield pollution remained very low, it said yesterday.

The institute reaffirmed its advice that it was safe to eat fish from the Irish Sea and enjoy "the amenities of the marine environment". It also "deplored and condemned" the continuing contamination of the Irish Sea resulting from Sellafield.