By Linda Pentz Gunter
Imagine being subjected to ear-shattering blasts every ten seconds, twenty four hours a day for four straight weeks? By any metric, that would qualify as the most appalling form of torture.
But that is exactly what is about to be inflicted on whales, dolphins, seals and other marine creatures in the Irish Sea if a new wave of opposition cannot stop it.
The Irish Sea is already the most radioactive sea in the world, in large part a result of decades of radioactive discharges from the Sellafield reprocessing facility on the Cumbrian shoreline.
Now, Nuclear Waste Services (NWS) has contracted a company called Shearwater Geosciences to blast its undersea seismic airguns off the Cumbria coast this summer, calling it “scientific research”.
NWS, a division of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, is tasked with finding a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) to accommodate the millions of tons of radioactive waste left over from Britain’s commercial nuclear power program.
Estimates put the cost of the project — paid by taxpayers of course — at between 20 billion to 53 billion pounds.
NWS has been exploring sites exclusively in Cumbria, either close to the coast or extending up to the 22km outer limit of UK territorial waters. The seismic blasting is designed to test the geology beneath the seabed for suitability for an undersea nuclear waste dump.
Terming the project ‘scientific research’ allowed NWS to be granted an exemption for the project, meaning it was not first required to secure a Marine License. The exemption also allowed the project to avoid public scrutiny and meaningful stakeholder engagement.
NWS got the exemption and green light from the Government’s Marine Management Organisation (MMO), whose Chief Executive, Tom McCormack, has now been sent a letter signed by prominent environmental groups and individuals, calling for the exemption to be rescinded.