Decades of Sellafield’s Reprocessing Waste On Irish Sea Bed Would be Churned Up by Coal Mine Subsidence

A great article by Paul Brown below – there is however a big elephant in the room regarding this story. The elephant in the room is the Cumbrian Mud Patch – the radioactive silts on the Irish Sea bed resulting from decades of reprocessing. The coal mine due to be decided upon soon by Government (after Planning Inspector Stephen Normington makes his recommendation) would churn up this nuclear crapola on the seabed. A tsunami of radioactive wastes now largely inert (apart from tidal processes) would be resuspended in the water column – returning to the shores and to the rest of the world. It takes only 4 years for Sellafield’s seaborne waste to reach the Arctic. The coal mine would cause subsidence and resulting resuspension of nuclear wastes. The coal mine would cause earthquakes. Both these outcomes are not “likely” they are certain. The coal mine CEO is also employed by government as advisor on the plans for a deep (and not so deep) nuclear dump for heat generating nuclear wastes – you couldn’t make it up.

February 10, 2022

The Legacy of Britain’s Dirty Decades of Nuclear Reprocessing: 120 Tonnes of Plutonium

by Paul Brown

Sellafield nuclear plant. Photo by Dafydd Waters/Creative Commons.

Seventy years after the United Kingdom first began extracting plutonium from spent uranium fuel to make nuclear weapons, the industry is finally calling a halt to reprocessing, leaving the country with 120 tons of the metal, the biggest stockpile in the world. However, the government has no idea what to do with it.

Having spent hundreds of billions of pounds producing plutonium in a series of plants at Sellafield in the Lake District, the UK policy is to store it indefinitely—or until it can come up with a better idea. There is also 90,000 tons of less dangerous depleted uranium in warehouses in the UK, also without an end use.

Plans to use plutonium in fast breeder reactors and then mixed with uranium as a fuel for existing fission reactors have long ago been abandoned as too expensive, unworkable, or sometimes both. Even burning plutonium as a fuel, while technically possible, is very costly.

The closing of the last reprocessing plant, as with all nuclear endeavours, does not mean the end of the industry, in fact it will take at least another century to dismantle the many buildings and clean up the waste. In the meantime, it is costing £3 billion a year to keep the site safe.

Perhaps one of the strangest aspects of this story to outside observers is that, apart from a minority of anti-nuclear campaigners, this plutonium factory in one of prettiest parts of England hardly ever gets discussed or mentioned by the UK’s two main political parties. Neither has ever objected to what seems on paper to be a colossal waste of money.

The secret of this silence is that the parliamentary seats in the Lake District are all politically on a knife-edge. No candidate for either Conservative or Labour can afford to be anti-nuclear, otherwise the seat would certainly go to the opposition party.

The story of Sellafield matters, however, particularly to countries like Japan, which is poised to open its own reprocessing works at Rokkasho, Aomori in September. Strangely, too, this is one of Japan’s most scenic areas.

This plan is particularly controversial in a country that is the only one so far to have had nuclear bombs used against it. Like Britain, Japan has no obvious outlet for the plutonium it will produce, except nuclear weapons and fast breeder reactors, this last a technology Japan has already tried and has ended in failure. It also seems unnecessary because Japan already owns a plutonium stockpile of several tonnes from sending spent fuel to the UK to be reprocessed.

While there is much more opposition in Japan, including from the influential New Diplomacy Initiative, there is local support for the works because politicians see employment opportunities. But there is also international concern about the potential spread of nuclear weapon capability to Japan and beyond.

In Britain, reprocessing began in 1952 entirely as a military endeavour. The idea was to make hydrogen bombs so Britain could keep up with the United States and Russia in the nuclear arms race.

A much larger plant opened in 1964, and it is this one that is finally due to close this year. It had a nominal capacity to reprocess 1,500 tonnes of spent fuel a year for both military and civilian purposes. It reprocessed fuel from the UK’s 26 Magnox, Italy’s Latina, and Japan’s Tokai Magnox nuclear reactors. It has reprocessed 45,000 tonnes so far and has 318 more to go.

From its inception, the reprocessing works was a highly polluting plant, discharging contaminated water into the Irish Sea. Plutonium, cesium, and other radionuclides were sent out to sea in a mile-long pipeline. Radioactivity was picked up in shellfish in Ireland, Norway, and Denmark, and in local seafood that had to be tested regularly to see if the radioactive load they carried made them too dangerous to eat. Local people were advised to keep their consumption of shellfish low. These discharges have now been considerably cleaned up.

A third “recycling” project, the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (THORP), was planned in 1977, expected to capitalize on the then projected expansion of nuclear power and to provide plutonium and uranium for newer reactors, and for the still-hoped-for fast breeder reactor programme. Government approval was given nine years later, by which time contracts for reprocessing had been made with a number of foreign companies. The new plant’s biggest customer was Japan.

So in the end, reprocessing became a commercial venture rather than producing anything useful. Nine countries sent spent fuel to Sellafield to have plutonium and uranium extracted for reuse and paid a great deal of money to do so. In reality, very little of either metal has ever been used because mixed oxide fuels were too expensive, and fast breeder reactors could never be scaled up sufficiently to be economic.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), the UK government body now charged with keeping Sellafield safe and ultimately dismantling it, still makes £820 million (US$1.16 billion) a year storing spent fuel, plutonium, uranium, and nuclear waste for foreign governments and the UK’s Ministry of Defence. This latter waste includes the radioactive material from powering nuclear submarines and manufacturing bombs and warheads. The rest of the £3.345 billion (US$4.570) budget comes from the UK taxpayer.

In its current plan, the NDA hopes to have disposed of all spent fuel by 2125—103 years hence. All buildings will be demolished or reused by 2133.

Although these targets seem a long way off, some of the interim ones are already unlikely. The documents say the NDA hopes to establish a deep depository for high-level waste by 2040—but the UK government has been looking for a site since 1980, and every one “found” has so far been rejected. It has just started the search all over again, offering lots of financial incentives to local communities to consider the idea.

Whatever happens, one thing is certain—most of the 11,000 people currently employed at Sellafield will still have jobs for decades to come.

This article first appeared on The Energy Mix and is available for republication through the commons.

“We may not need a licence to drill”

Photo by Egor Kamelev on
Fulmar – photo by Dorothy Bennett

The following request has been sent to the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) in the light of West Cumbria Mining’s statement that they “might not need a licence from the MMO” should government approve the plan. Do they know something we don’t given the proximity to Sellafied, the radioactively contaminated Cumbrian Mud Patch (above the mine) and the ecologically sensitive marine protected area of the Irish Sea:

Dear Marine Management Organisation,

West Cumbria Mining have said that “we may not need a licence from the Marine Management Organisation” to mine for coal under the Irish Sea in an area of multiple conservation protections.

Has a pre-application submission been made by West Cumbria Mining for Woodhouse Colliery?

If this is the case I request sight of:

1. Pre-application submission/s from West Cumbria Mining
2. All Replies from the Marine Management Organisation to West Cumbria Mining

Yours faithfully,

Marianne Birkby

It’s All About the Climate, Climate, Climate – What About the Earthquakes, Earthquakes, Earthquakes?

Not to mention the Subsidence and the Radioactive Mud Patch

This is our response to West Cumbria Mining and the Council’s agreement on conditions should the Secretary of State rubberstamp WCM’s coal mine. 

We vehemently disagree with  the conditions on seismicity and subsidence as agreed by WCM, the Rule 6 parties and Cumbria County Council.  We ask for evidence of justification from WCM for the generous conditions on subsidence and seismicity.  The very small concession to monitor all seismicity is meaningless when the limits set at which actions would be taken are generous and the outcome is not to halt operations but for WCM to merely deliver a report. 

We are devastated to have been sent the report by (WCM) planning advisors, IC Planning, that: “The Rule 6 parties, Friends of the earth and SLACC, have both confirmed that they have no issue with the subsidence and seismic activity condition as they are currently drafted. Both parties have provided extensive commentary on a wide range of other conditions and aspects of the proposals, but have not chosen to do so in relation to these specific conditions.”  (Note: SLACC have contacted me saying they “do not agree” with the conditions on seismicity and subsidence – lets hope that disagreement from SLACC is voiced in the final conditions).

We agree with the former UK climate envoy John Ashton who has said:  “It is morally incoherent” to focus on climate without looking at subsidence of the contaminated Irish Sea bed and induced seismic impacts on the Sellafield site.   It will be interesting to see how this all plays out given that the coal boss Mark Kirkbride is employed by Government to advise on nuclear waste plans, his expertise is, after all, in digging very big holes .


66. Seismic Activity – Monitoring 

WCM Response 

“WCM can approach these parties and request access to monitor using their electricity and wifi but cannot guarantee permission will be granted.”

RFL Response: WCM must be responsible for providing power and wifi for equipment used in seismic monitoring at high vibration- sensitive and high hazard consequence onshore receptors in the region such as i) West Cumberland Hospital ii) South Egremont boreholes utilised for public drinking water and Sellafield.  The receptors should not be responsible for providing electricity and monitoring for WCM. 

WCM Response on distances to identified receptors

Note. Egremont = approx. 5 miles, Sellafield = approx. 9 miles. 

RFL Response

Unless seismic activity is taking the very long route by road, the shortest distance from the nearest point of the coal mine’s subsea area identified by WCM’s location maps is South Egremont under 4 miles and Sellafield, five miles.  Unless WCM can prove otherwise their disingenous claims on distance between the nearest point of the subsea coal mine and the highly vulnerable receptors, should be struck out of official records.

Images – Distances from WCM’s mining interests to receptors, taken from the “as the crow flies” distance calculator and WCM’s location map with RaFL additions.

67 Seismic Activity – Investigation 

WCM Response

“1mm/s threshold is unreasonable and impractical, – suggest retaining 6mm/s as per original condition.”

RFL Response

What evidence is there that the 1mm/s peak particle velocity threshold agreed by the Planning Inspector during RFL’s contribution to conditions is unreasonable and impractical?

WCM’s 6mm/s PPV is the threshold used for blasting and 1mm/s is the point at which residents will complain of vibrations.   

WCM Response

“This is not a fracking project”

RFL Response

If this was a fracking project a stringent Traffic Light System would by legal requirement be put in place – as Cuadrilla have said:  “It should be noted that the Traffic Light System required for hydraulic fracturing in the UK is significantly more stringent than the maximum ‘allowed’ induced seismic event for other hydrocarbon industries in the UK such as coal mining where magnitude >3.0ML events have been observed”.  Cuadrilla Environmental Statement Appendix 1. Induced Seismicity May 2014 Preston New Road. 

WCM Response

“Unreasonable to stop if cause not known. Outside body not defined.”

RFL Response

If the cause is not known operations should be halted until the cause is known.  The “Outside body” refers to the appropriate regulatory authority.  

68 Seismic Activity – Mitigation 

WCM Response

“Suggest the WCM TLS = 

  • C66 – continuous monitoring (Green)
  • C67 – investigation if PPV > 6mm/s
  • C68 – mitigation if investigation
    demonstrates WCM at fault (Red)
    Although a case could be made from the references later to increase the threshold, WCM have not pursued this”

RFL Response – WCM TLS applies only to PPV not to  Magnitude of earthquake

C66 – continous monitoring (GreenP

C67 – investigation if PPV > 1mm/s  (Amber)

CC8  – halt to operations if investigation demonstrates WCM at fault (Red)

Magnitude TLS
Green light  a seismic event up to 0.0 occurs operations continue normally.

Amber light: A seismic event between 0 and 0.5ML occurs during mining within the operational boundary (a specified geographical area). Operations continue with caution unless this coincides with a peak particle velocity of 1mm/s and then operations should halt. 

Red light A seismic event of 0.5ML or greater occurs within the operational boundary or within the near region up to 5 miles. 

69 Subsidence Monitoring

WCM Response

“Prawn fishing in the mud patch and weather conditions are more likely to have an influence.”

RFL Response

What evidence does WCM have that “prawn fishing” and “weather” are more likely to have an influence on resuspending radioactive silts from the Cumbrian Mud Patch than subsidence and climate impacts ?

We have searched for referenced academic research studies of the volume/mass of seabed sediment re-suspension following prawn trawling in, or near, the unique seabed fine sediment feature known as the Cumbrian Mud Patch. We have found no reference to any such studies.

We challenge WCM to provide the referenced academic research data on which they base their claim that sediment re-suspension generated by shrimp trawling and weather factors will generate a greater degree of sediment re-suspension than sub-seabed mining subsidence.

Unless WCM can produce copy of the relevant, fully referenced academic data we urge the Inquiry to regard the WCM  statement/claim as spurious and un-substantiated, to disregard it, and to ensure that it is struck out of any record of official proceedings.

If WCM can produce copy of the relevant, fully referenced academic data,  we request that the material be regarded as late submitted evidence and that we be granted an extension period in which we can review, consider and respond to this late submitted evidence. If such a time extension is not available or not permitted we formally request that the late submitted evidence be withdrawn and that any reference to the WCM claim be struck out of the record of of official proceedings.

We note that the North Western Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority provided an early submission to Cumbria County Council on Subsidence saying:

“impact on shoreline profile and wave heights. NWIFCA note that WCM propose a ‘no mine zone’ within Cumbria Coast MCZ and St Bees SSSI which we welcome. WCM state that “Given the small predicted seabed height changes, the slow rate of subsidence and the small changes in slope, combined with the fact that subsidence will not occur over the whole mined area it is likely that impacts on statutory protected areas in the vicinity of the development (i.e. the Cumbria Coast MCZ and the Solway Firth pSPA) will be negligible”.   

This does not dispel concerns over potential for subsidence of the seafloor outside of these Protected Areas which could have impacts on the benthos plus potential consequences to shoreline profile and wave heights, which could in turn result in unintended consequences that would affect these protected sites and elsewhere.Data and understanding are limited at the present time and in order to address this, WCM will commission surveys and a numerical modelling study to more accurately predict the potential impacts, if any, of subsidence on the intertidal and marine environments, to be completed prior to commencement of works.

“Data will also be gathered regarding subtidal communities to determine the distribution, extent and likely responses of any potential sensitive receivers. In addition, a Marine Monitoring Plan will be implemented to monitor the bathymetry of the seabed and surficial sediments properties (including benthic communities) overlying the extraction zones using the data collected in 2016-17 as a baseline”.

NWIFCA would ask who the regulator for subsidence risk is and stress the need for further dialogue and engagement over this issue once predictions of potential impacts have been produced.

 The NWIFCA have said that they “will respond formally to an MMO consultation”.  

70 Subsidence – Investigation and reporting

WCM response

“Chapter 17 and the HRA did not come to a conclusion that this would occur. CCC have considered this 3 times and have not sought such a condition”

RFL response

It was assumed by the NWIFCA, the County Council and NGOs that the subsea impacts of this coal mine would be scrutinised by a Marine Management Organisation consultation.  The onshore impacts from subsea mining induced seismicity and subsidence ( including radiological impacts and the question of who is liable should the “expected subsidence” result in resuspension of Sellafield’s wastes from the mud patch) would be one of the issues given scrutiny in a public consultation by the MMO.   However, WCM have said that they “may not need” a MMO licence.  What is the evidence for this statement?  Has a pre- licence application been submitted behind closed doors ? 

71 Subsidence – Mitigation 

See above.

North Western Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority
Ref No: 4/17/9007 RE: Consultation on Further Information submitted in relation to a Mineral County Matter Application for Planning Permission accompanied by an Environmental Statement 29th January 2018 – full document attachedOffshore Subsidence – resuspension and dispersal of radioactive contaminants. The documentation has confirmed to NWIFCA that a risk of subsidence exists and therefore there remains an overwhelming concern over the potential for disturbance and resuspension of radioactive contaminants and sediments.”

Drinking Water Boreholes at South Egremont

Note: Planning loop hole and WCM -Onshore conditions are the responsibility of Cumbria County Council’s Mineral Planning Authority and marine conditions are the responsibility of the UK Government’s Marine Management Organisation from whom WCM say they “may not need a licence”

The result of this would be that the seismic and subsidence issues having not been addressed by Rule 6 Parties in the Planning Inquiry will also not receive any scrutiny in a public consultation from the Marine Management Organisation.  The Mineral Planning Authority of Cumbria County Council has the responsibility to manage conditions for any onshore effects and harms resulting from Woodhouse Colliery should Michael Gove approve the mine. But if their source of origin is subsea, the local planning regime outsources responsibility to the UK government’s Marine Management Organisation, from whom the developers clearly expect a rubber stamp.  

If a rubber stamp is to be issued by Government (who employ the coal boss as a nuclear waste ‘disposal’ advisor at the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management  it is imperative that a seismic Traffic Light System for the Woodhouse Colliery is implemented. The TLS should be at least as stringent as that for fracking.

In his statement to the Planning Inspector, the independent speaker and writer, formerly UK climate envoy 2006-12 John Ashton CBE included the following points.
:  “it is also dysfunctional that the terrestrial and marine dimensions are being considered separately.
I understand the procedural reasons. But it is the consequences of the project as a whole that will shape the lives of those in the firing line. It is both intellectually and morally incoherent, as well as administratively inefficient, to subdivide those consequences: to consider the climate implications, for example, without looking at the risks arising from the destabilization through subsidence and seismicity of Sellafield waste on the seabed above the mine.”  Although the former UK Climate Envoys’ statement was widely reported the points he made on seismicity and subidence never made it into the headlines.

Cumbria Coal Mine Would Cause Earthquakes – its Official

The video is a very brief summary from Radiation Free Lakeland of the induced earthquake and subsidence expected due to the coal mine.  Sellafield, the world’s riskiest nuclear waste site is just five miles away. What could go wrong

The more people who give a mention to this the more likely the Inspector will include it as a reason to ditch this coal mine in his recommendations to Government

You can Take Action here

All best wishes and more power to all our collective elbows!

Radiation Free Lakeland / Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole

An Open Letter to the Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng Who is About to Issue Coal Licenses for West Cumbria Mining

An Open Letter to the Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. 

Dear Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng 

You said yesterday that there is “a slight tension” between the governmnent washing its hands (Pontius Pilate like) of the Cumbria coal mine saying its a ‘local decision’ and the UK government’s committment to net zero carbon and its chairing of the UN Climate Summit in Glasgow in November.

The UK Dept for Business Energy and Industry Strategy argue that the coal mine is “a local decision” but in the awarding of new Coal Authority licenses to the developers (West Cumbria Mining) the buck stops with BEIS.   Accountability of the Coal Authority lies directly with the BEIS.  The first set of licenses is due to run out on 24th January.

As nuclear safety campaigners who have been opposing this mine since 2019 we are very concerned that the climate aspect of this mine may not be the most disastrous to life on planet earth. BEIS is directly responsible for the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management who have appointed the CEO of the coal mine development, Mark Kirkbride to their Committee who advise BEIS and Radioactive Waste Management on “site selection” of a potential Geological Disposal Facility for Radioactive Wastes.  The Coal Mine is adjacent to the area under the Irish Sea bed which is ‘in the frame’  for the subsea geological disposal of heat generating nuclear wastes.   

Do BEIS believe that mining out coal adjacent to the area they are promoting as a Geological Disposal Facility will make the rocks more stable? Or that mining directly underneath the decades of Sellafield’s discharged wastes will make them safer?

The coal mine would be directly beneath the nuclear wastes discharged from Sellafield over the last 70 odd years.  They are in the silts known as the “Cumbrian Mud Patch.”  The UK and Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities have along with local nuclear safety campaigners Radiation Free Lakeland, urged Cumbria County Council to reconsider the impact of the expected subsidence of the Irish Sea bed and resuspension of the decades worth of radioactive wastes from Sellafield which are currently embedded in the silts of the Cumbrian Mud Patch. WCM have designated and identified a sub-sea mining zone of the Irish Sea lying to the west of St Bees Head and extending at least 8kms offshore and southwards to within about 8km of the Sellafield site. The WCM extraction proposals, using continuous mining methods, predict the extraction of approximately 3 million tonnes of coal per year over a 50 year period. This extraction rate will eventually generate a huge subterranean void space of approximately 136 million cubic metres (a volume greater than that of Wastwater Lake).  Subsidence “is expected” beneath Sellafield’s discharged nuclear wastes currently (largely imobilised in the silt, remobilising the nuclear wastes into the water column and back to land.

Now we urge BEIS NOT TO ISSUE COAL AUTHORITY LICENSES for this Coal Mine which would be largely under the Irish Sea.

yours sincerely

Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole (a Radiation Free Lakeland Campaign

South Lakeland Action on Climate Change Are Following Our Lead and Pushing Hard for a Judicial Review

Coal Mine Goes Here? Photo by Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole

South Lakeland Action on Climate Change have launched a crowdfund supported by Coal Action Network and Friends of the Earth in order to raise funds to challenge Cumbria County Council’s planning approval. SLACC are focussing on climate legislation. This is brilliant news, not least because it frees up our own campaigning to focus on the more taboo nuclear impacts of this coal mine. We fully support SLACCs proposed challenge and hope it results in success for all of us.

Our own crowdfund can be found here – We continue to work hard to ensure that the nuclear aspects of this mine do not go unchallenged. With the advice of our Lawyers Leigh Day, we are exploring the best way to do this having already delayed the plan with previous legal challenge.

Please do keep sharing our crowdfund to ensure we can continue to oppose the plan – there are many more hurdles for this coal mine to jump and we want to make sure those hurdles are many and sky high. We are painfully aware that more mainstream NGOs are not focussed at all on the terrible nuclear impacts this coal mine would have. It is entirely down to your generous help and support of our Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole campaign that we have kept the coal mine at bay so far.

We are currently urging people to write to Cumbria County Council, an excellent letter has been sent to Cumbria County Council by David Hatton from Silloth – please do use this as inspiration for your own letters.

We have been told by the Council that the Decision Notice (a final approval of the planning permission) may be issued in the next couple of weeks – so the more letters the council get asking that the Decision Notice is not approved the better!

Email The Leader of Cumbria County Council

and Chair of the Development Control Committee Councillor Cook (thank him for voting against the plan!)

To: <>

Dear Councillor Young,

I write to you as a resident, rate payer, and voter in Cumbria.     I ask the County Council not to issue a final decision notice on the above application until a much more thorough risk assesment has been carried out.

I have heard that the County Council considers the risk of disturbing sediment in the sea-bed off St Bees’ Head is acceptable.    I put it to you that any kind of risk of harm to Human Life from Nuclear Activity is totally unacceptable. 

  We have been living with these risks ever since the Nuclear Energy Commission came to Cumbria.    Always denied, of course,   It is time for you the County Council, as our elected representatives, to act for all Cumbrians and the rest of the UK.    You have been putting money before health for far too long.   Listening to the empty promises of help from big business and even the Government, which never materialise in the long run, and the people who live in Cumbria suffer for it.

In this particular case the Government have passed the buck back to you to decide.   So please look to a future which does not rely on money from foreign companies which in the long run will destroy our County as they walk away, leaving us with the mess to clear up.    If this mining project goes ahead and caused any sort of incident involving Sellafield it will not be possible to clear it up.    This County Council will go down in history as the one who allowed it to happen.   

Yours sincerely,

David Hatton


TAKE ACTION! We Have Already Delayed the Coal Mine … Now We Need to Stop It.


Dear Friends,THANKS TO ALL who are donating and sharing, writing and campaigning –

without you this mine would already be underway!!  We have delayed it repeatedly,  now we need to stop it.

The Bad News!Robert Jenrick MP the Communities Secretary has decided not to call in the County Council’s Yes vote for a public inquiry.  

The Good News!The UK and Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities have put their weight behind our campaign by urging Cumbria County Council to reconsider the impact of the expected subsidence of the Irish Sea bed and resuspension of the decades worth of radioactive wastes from Sellafield which are currently embedded in the silts of the Cumbrian Mud Patch.

Our fight against the mine continues and there are a couple of ACTIONS  people can take right now.

1.  Write to Cumbria County Council urging them to take the advice of the UK and Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities and to reconsider the impact of the expected subsidence of the Irish Sea bed and resuspension of the decades worth of radioactive wastes from Sellafield  which are currently embedded in the silts of the Cumbrian Mud Patch.  

On Radio Cumbria’s Mike Zeller show of the 7th January Cumbria County Council were quoted as saying that the radioactive risks of induced seismicity and subsidence are acceptable.   This is an outrageous abdication of the Council’s responsibility to the public’s health and safety.  

Ask Cumbria County Council not to issue a final Decision Notice but to take this opportunity to reconsider the expected subsidence and radioactive impacts of this coal mine.  

A Template Letter is below – please do write in your own words – there are many reasons why the Council should not issue a Decision Notice – as well as the radioactive impacts there are the climate impacts too.

2.  We are looking at a new legal challenge on radioactive impacts of this coal mine. As before, all monies go direct to top lawyers Leigh Day who have already successfully repeatedly delayed the plan.  The legal challenge would be in my name (Marianne B) on behalf of Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole– Please do share ……..and if you can (I know times are so tough) …..please donate.  DONATE HERE – HELP STOP THE CUMBRIAN COAL MINE 

TEMPLATE LETTER (for inspiration) EMAIL

Dear Councillor Geoff Cook Woodhouse Colliery Application Reference No. 4/17/9007

Thank you for voting against the amended coal mine plan.  
I have heard that the Secretary of State will not be calling this decision in for a public inquiry.  
I would be very grateful if Cumbria County Council would take the advice of the UK and Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities and reconsider the impact of the expected subsidence of the Irish Sea bed and resuspension of the decades worth of radioactive wastes from Sellafield (currently embedded in the silts of the Cumbrian Mud Patch).  

On Radio Cumbria’s Mike Zeller show of the 7th January 2021 Cumbria County Council were quoted as saying that the radioactive risks of induced seismicity and subsidence are acceptable.   This would seem to be an abdication of the Council’s responsibility to the public’s health and safety.  Please ensure that Cumbria County Council do not issue a final Decision Notice until the expected subsidence and radioactive impacts of this coal mine have been fully considered,  including the ongoing internal review into Sellafield’s Freedom of Information response regarding the Responsibility for Radioactive Wastes on the Irish Sea Bed.

Thank you

Yours sincerely, 

Copy sent to Leader of Cumbria County Council Stuart Young

Hurray – We are on the way to a new Challenge…

Dear Friends,

Hurray!  We have reached our first hurdle and now have the means to look at a legal challenge with the help of top lawyers Leigh Day.  Thank you very much to all who have been sharing and donating.  The response so far has been truly remarkable and generous. Please do keep sharing the CrowdJustice page.

I have drawn a quick map to show just how under threat the Irish Sea is. There are individual ‘official’ maps of all these things, Coal Mine plan, Marine Conservation Zone, Cumbrian Mud Patch and Geological Disposal Facility ‘possible’ site –  but this is the first time all the elements have been put together on one (felt tip pen!) map. 

 It seems that the much hyped Marine Conservation Zone status, which is supposed to act as “protection” for the Irish Sea coastal zone, counts for zilch when big business with big vested interests and political/industrial lobbyists are involved.  The regulatory bodies have rolled over despite the “protected status” and Cumbria County Council have rolled with them.  How ironic that one of the first voices calling this horrible coal mine out was not the conservation bodies who have campaigned vigorously for the protection of the Irish Sea coastal area of Cumbria, but the North Western Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority.  The very industry that the Marine Conservation Zones were designed to protect the sea from overfishing, were the first ones calling this mad bad coal mine plan out.

The map also shows the insane plan for a geological disposal facility for heat generating nuclear wastes.  The Irish Sea is under threat from this too with the new push to find a “willing community” who will roll over with the offer of ongoing “compensation” – or to use the vernacular – bribes  (with public money).   The definition of “community” has not been revealed and although the Chief Executive Officer of West Cumbria Mining has said “the coal mine has nothing to do with GDF plans” the circumstantial evidence that it is indeed linked is there to see.

The CEO of West Cumbria Mining is giving a talk in March 2021 (see below)- not about the coal mine you understand but about the government plans to get shot of the heat generating nuclear wastes which have been stacking up at Sellafield over several decades, ( in order to make more of them with new civil/military nuclear build from Hinkley, BAE et al.)  The coal boss’s business interests (not confined to coal) would likely be first in line for the eye watering nuclear waste big bucks courtesy of the public purse. 

This coal mine is more than meets the eye -and what meets the eye is shocking enough – 3 million tonnes of coal every year being mined out under the Irish Sea and shunted through the complex geology of the “protected Marine Conservation Zone” for decades to come? 

Thanks to you we still have a chance to stop this coal mine (and it seems much else besides!) 

With all best wishes


“Old King Coal dug a great big hole

Under the Irish Sea.

Said it was Green

and the Mayor was Keen

Even Sellafield Loved it too”

“Development of a Deep Geological Disposal Facility for Nuclear Waste in the UK

Mark Kirkbride, Member on the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM)

15th March 2021 7:30pm by Zoom

Since the late 1940’s the UK has been involved in nuclear science and engineering, with the creation of waste being an integral part of that industry.  There has been significant focus upon long-term storage and disposal of this nuclear waste inventory.  The talk will seek to explain the types of nuclear waste, historical background and work towards the development of a deep geological disposal facility in the UK for disposal of nuclear waste.”

note: Mark Kirkbride is also the CEO of West Cumbria Mining

The Nuclear Madness of Old King Coal

The Nuclear Madness of Old King Coal

Dear Friends,

Many thanks to everyone who is donating and sharing this crowdjustice fundraiser.  We still need to raise a couple of hundred to enable us to go forward with the first stage of a legal challenge.  PLEASE let people know about the crowdfunder – we know these are such difficult times for everyone but we would not be doing this if it was not so very important to not only the health of the environment but also directly to the health of the public.  

One the most visceral reasons we want to challenge this coal mine is not only  on climate grounds (though the fossil fuel mined out would be so damaging)  but on the very real and unavoidable radiological damage. The area of seabed below which the mine would be situated is the area in which most of the wastes discharged from Sellafield are languishing in the silts.  

The developers themselves say that subsidence of this area would be unavoidable if the mine proceeds.  This would release the decades of Sellafield’s discharge wastes into the Irish Sea and onto the beaches of Cumbria.  Wastes from Sellafield have been found as far away as the Arctic.

We have been trying to find out just who is responsible for the decades of Radioactive Wastes on the “Cumbrian Mud Patch.”   After many Freedom of Information requests and finger pointing by the authorities – Sellafield suggested it was not them but the Environment Agency who would be responsible .  In all the years the coal mine plan has been rumbling on The Environment Agency have not to my knowledge fielded any concerns regarding the radioactive wastes on the sea bed. 

Here is their reply to our questions.  It is truly scary – and even describes the resulting resuspension of radioactive wastes following subsidence of the Irish Sea bed as a “natural process.”  Our questions are in Italics below – their answers follow..

Please help stop this coal mine which is so much worse than the sum of its parts.

From the Environment Agency…

Dear Marianne

Enquiry regarding responsibility for safety of radioactive wastes on the Cumbrian mud patch

Thank you for your enquiry which we received on 16 November 2020.

We respond to requests under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and Environmental Information Regulations 2004.

Answers to your questions are as follows.

Who is responsible for the decades of radioactive discharge on the “Cumbrian Mud Patch”?

There are a number of sites that have permitted discharges into the Irish Sea in England, Scotland and Wales. The dominant sources of radioactive discharges along the Cumbrian coast are from Sellafield Ltd (and its predecessors) and, in the past, naturally occurring radioactive materials from a former phosphate processing plant near Whitehaven in Cumbria. The Environment Agency regulates the discharge of radioactive waste into the environment by Sellafield Ltd in accordance with an environmental permit. The conditions in this permit are designed to protect people and the environment by ensuring that any radiation exposure that may result from such discharges is kept below legal radiation dose limits. For example, the environmental permit requires Sellafield Ltd to monitor radiation levels from its site discharges, including discharges to sea, and any effects of radioactivity on the environment. Sellafield Ltd publishes an annual discharge and environmental monitoring report. We conduct independent environmental monitoring which is published in the Radioactivity in Food and Environment report series:….
Further details about how we regulate the site and how monitoring is carried out is available at this link:…

In the likely event of subsidence following mined out voids beneath the Cumbrian Mud Patch who would be accountable for the plutonium and other radioactive wastes which would be resuspended into the sea and returned to the coastal areas with the tides?

If resuspension from the ‘Cumbrian Mud Patch’ occurs as part of natural processes, the monitoring programmes conducted by Sellafield Ltd and ourselves will ensure that we keep any changes in radioactivity levels in the environment under review. You may be interested in the attached scientific paper which provides further information on the likely impact of storm surges. We are not in a position to comment on the impact of mining on the Irish Sea bed (see next question).

Would that responsibility for allowing the coal mine to induce subsidence of the Cumbrian Mud Patch and resulting resuspension of radioactive wastes lie with the Environment Agency?

The integrity of any coal mining operation will be regulated by the Health and Safety Executive and the Coal Authority.

Please refer to Open Government Licence which explains the permitted use of this information.

Please get in touch if you have any further queries or contact us within two months if you’d like us to review the information we have sent.

Yours sincerely,

Customers and Engagement Team
Cumbria and Lancashire

A New Challenge to the Coal Mine Plan

Dear Friends

A New Challenge to the Coal Mine Plan

We urgently need to raise funds to challenge the new (amended) plan to open the first deep coal mine in the UK in over 30 years.

Previous huge generosity of supporters has already delayed the plan.  The developers West Cumbria Mining’s initial plan was to start construction in 2017. !!

A legal challenge was put forward in my name under the banner Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole (a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign).  The detailed work by top lawyers Leigh Day meant that the legal challenge led to developers  amending their application.  In October of this year despite overwhelming evidence on the enormous climate and nuclear impacts the amended plan received planning permission from (a no longer unanimous) Cumbria County Council.

Climate Impacts

Now we need funds to continue the fight and STOP THIS COAL MINE.  While the climate impacts of this mine have been much in the news, with the enormous carbon emissions over the lifetime of the mine, the nuclear impacts have been more taboo and were not even mentioned by the councillors in their deliberations.

Nuclear Impacts

The mine would be five miles from the world’s riskiest nuclear waste site –Sellafield   Mass void removal as proposed by this coal mine is known to induce seismicity.   As well as this certain seismic risk the mine would be directly below the radioactive sediments which have settled on the Irish Sea bed from decades of Sellafield discharges.  The radioactive sediment estimated to include around 500kg of plutonium along with a cocktail of other radioactive isotopes ( the devastation of Nagasaki was caused by 1kg of plutonium) is named as the Cumbrian Mud Patch. In approving the plan the County Council acknowledged that seismicity and subsidence of the Irish Sea bed is likely but that it could be “mitigated” – with the developers self moderating impacts. Incredibly Sellafield is “in support” of the coal mine plan which lies below  the decades worth of their radioactive waste discharge lying on the Irish Sea bed (the plan was to “dilute and disperse”).

No Coming Back

The nuclear impacts are of a magnitude literally out of this world as the high level radioactive wastes and plutonium stockpiles sitting at Sellafield if accidently released through induced seismicity from methane explosion or mass void removal could do what they were originally designed to do and annihilate the biosphere many times over. This and the certain risk of resuspension of the Cumbrian Mud Patch wastes means that this coal mine puts us all at direct risk of a nuclear fall out there would be no coming back from.

Public Inquiry?

Campaigners have also been lobbying the Secretary of State to call the decision in for a public inquiry. If a public inquiry were to be called we would use any donations to pay for expert advice and representation by Leigh Day.

With your help we can challenge this outrageous decision by Cumbria County Council.  This coal mine would have impacts way beyond the sum of its parts.

With your help we can and we MUST STOP the Cumbrian Coal Mine 

PLEASE SUPPORT THIS NEW CHALLENGE – You can support the challenge by donating and sharing  HERE

Note: All money goes directly to our Lawyers, Leigh Day who have already worked at well below commercial rates but we still need funds to cover legal fees and court costs should they arise.  Already we have, with Leigh Day’s detailed legal work, delayed this plan now we need to stop the plan in its tracks.  

Many Thanks!!

Marianne Birkby