Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant
The Sellafield nuclear complex is situated on the coast of Cumbria in northwest Britain.
Originally named Windscale with the purpose of producing plutonium for the
British nuclear weapons program, it then became a commercial operation with
reprocessing facilities, fuel fabrication and other installations, operated by
British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (BNFL). In 2005 ownership switched to the Nuclear
Sellafield has a track record of numerous incidents and accidents involving the release of radioactive substances into the environment as well as the routine discharges from reprocessing and other activities.
The Sellafield site has the highest concentration of radioactivity on the planet. A major accident involving the liquid high level waste tanks could have catastrophic consequences and make the area uninhabitable for a long time.
The reprocessing plants discharge some nuclear waste into the sea each day. The radioactivity contaminates seawater, sediments and marine life such as winkles and lobsters. The Irish Sea is arguably the most radioactively contaminated sea in the world.
In the vicinity of the complex, groundwater, estuaries and soil are contaminated. Compared to the British average, there has been a ten-fold increase of childhood leukaemia around Sellafield. Plutonium dust has been found in the houses of residents living along the Irish Sea coast.