November 5, 2005
The Most Radioactive Place on Earth and It’s Just 130km From Ireland
By PAT FLANAGAN
THERE is a lake so radioactive you will die if you just LOOK into it for a few hours - and it's 130km from Ireland.
Below the surface lies material so unstable it will explode if the air gets at it. It is so toxic it pollutes the wind that blows over it.
So lethal that seagulls must be shot if they land on it to prevent them becoming radiation carriers.
Welcome to Sellafield's "Dirty Thirty" - the most contaminated place on earth and not far from Ireland's east coast.
The massive radioactive lake at the home of the British nuclear industry in Cumbria contains millions of litres of deadly radioactive water and sludge.
The huge B30 tank is the size of three Olympic swimming pools and is just a few hundred metres from the Irish Sea.
The lake has been used as a nuclear dump since the late 1950s, but even Sellafield bosses are not sure what lurks in its depths.
They do know it contains up to 1.3 metric tonnes of plutonium, the most deadly substance ever created. Beneath its murky waters lie hundreds of spent nuclear fuel rods from Magnox reactors which were dumped there in the 1960s.
But despite the passage of time the rods are still so hot they would explode if taken out of the water.
Bosses at the plant have been so concerned about B30 they have commissioned a special submarine with video cameras to try to find out what's beneath the surface.
A source said: "This is the cesspool of the world. No one knows for sure what is in there.
"No records were kept but there is more plutonium in there than almost anywhere else in the world.
"It was originally meant to store spent nuclear fuel, but it became a dump for everything in the 1960s and 70s.
"Radiation levels are very high all around the tank at workers can only stay in the area safely for less than half-an-hour before they get their safe daily dose.
"The company has been told to clean it up but that is going to be a major task. There are worries about the containment walls and video images confirm this. There is seepage, which is worrying but that's to be expected after 50 years."
After a serious accident forced the Magnox reprocessing plant to close down in 1974 fuel was stored underwater far too long.
This led to serious corrosion to cans containing the fuel resulting in increased radiation levels and poor visibility. The lake was decommissioned in 1986.
Sources revealed highly contaminated water is seeping through the walls, especially during cold weather when joints contract.
A containment wall is being built outside the main wall to hold the liquid if the main wall give way.
The source added: "B30 is a real problem and is going to be difficult to deal with. The video has caused some concern, but there is a lot we don't know.
"It was only of limited use, we still don't know what is going on beneath the sludge on the bottom of the pool.
"Management has been left holding the can. It should never have been allowed to happen."