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Sellafield: Sharp rise in T99 levels in lobsters

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
(January 24, 1997) There has been a dramatic increase of radioactive isotope Technetium 99 (T99) found in lobsters, winkles, limpets, mussels and scampi in the Irish Sea during 1996, according to the English newspaper The Guardian. Levels found in lobsters caught off Sellafield have been measured by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) at 17000 Bq/Kg. T99 is a Beta radiation emitter with a half life of 123,000 years.

(465.4623) WISE Amsterdam -The information was leaked to the trade magazine of the Environmental Date Services organization and subsequently to The Guardian. Such 1996 data would not normally be available until autumn 1977 when MAFF's Annual Monitoring Report is published.

The discharge of T99 from Sellafield, largely due to historic reprocessing wastes held on site pending the start-up of effluent treatment plant in 1994, rose from 3Tbq (1 Terra Bequerel = 1 thousand billion Bequerel) in 1992 to 192Tbq in 1995. The pollution is likely to be highly embarrassing to the government since it emerges from British Nuclear Fuel's 168 million British pounds (US$280 million) EARP plant authorized at the same time as the controversial THORP reprocessing plant. It was supposed to reduce pollution from the reprocessing of fuel from Magnox reactors. BNFL has confirmed, however, that the plant does not remove T99 and, in the absence of any available removal technology, considers it unneccesary to pay for additional storage tanks to contain T99 on site.

The levels found in lobster in 1992 were 170 Bq/kg as compared to today's figure of 17,000 Bq/kg. European Union levels for lobster, set in the event of a nuclear accident, are just 1,250 Bq/kg. MAFF is currently asking the European Union to relax this limit because they consider it too low.


  • The Guardian (UK), 12 December 1996
  • CORE Briefing, 13 December 1996

Contact: Cumbrians Opposing an Radioactive Enviromnent (CORE), 98 Church St., Barrow-in-Furnes, Cumbria LA14 2HT, UK
Tel: +44-229-833851
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