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 one million cubic metres of radioactive waste disposed of over the last 55 years by the civil and military nuclear industry at Drigg, near the Sellafield nuclear complex in West Cumbria, is going to start leaking onto the shoreline in “a few hundred to a few thousand years from now”, the document says.
The EA is currently considering a plan by the companies that run Drigg to dispose of a further 800,000 cubic metres of waste there over the next 100 years. This will include radioactive debris from Britain’s nuclear power stations, nuclear submarines, nuclear weapons, hospitals and universities.
Environmentalists argue that continuing to use the site is “unethical, unsustainable and highly dangerous”. But this is rejected by Drigg’s operators, who describe the risks as “insignificant”.
The EA document, dated 9 January 2014, sets out the agency’s latest assessment of the risks of coastal erosion at Drigg. It was released by the EA this month in response to a request from The Guardian.