In early December last year NuGen submitted its application to the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) for a licence to undertake offshore geotechnical investigations within West Cumbria’s inshore waters. The application is in support of its plans to build three AP1000 reactors at Moorside. The focus of the investigation will be the location for the sub-seabed tunnels required for the reactors’ cooling water intake and outlet systems. The £20m contract for the work, which also includes onshore site investigations, was awarded last year to Dutch company Fugro. The company, with a major involvement in oil and gas extraction (including fracking) and relatively little experience in the nuclear field – which its classifies as a sustainable energy – describes itself as providing geotechnical, survey, subsea and geosciences services. The offshore work is scheduled to start on 29th February 2016 and will involve the drilling of some 40 boreholes each between 34 metres to 92 metres in depth, with an expected average depth of 70 metres. Disturbance to sediments which contain plutonium, americium and a cocktail of other radioactive elements leads not only to their spread in local waters but also to their being driven ashore where particles can be re-suspended and blown inland. NuGen however believes that the amount of radioactive sediment that will be disturbed by the borehole drilling and core extraction will be ‘small’ and no bigger than ‘storm background levels’ and therefore proposes to take no mitigation measures. Such a proposal is likely to be treated with a similar level of scepticism to that given to the pronouncement made many decades ago by the then Windscale site that its radioactive discharges to the Irish Sea would safely disperse into the wider oceans.
CORE 17th Jan 2016 read more »