On the coast of Cumbria, in the Lake District, there is a nuclear reprocessing plant called Sellafield, formerly Windscale, that daily pumps up to a million gallons of radioactive waste down a mile and a half of pipeline, into the Irish Sea. It has done this for thirty-five years. The waste contains caesium and ruthenium and strontium, and uranium, and plutonium. Estimates published in The Times and in the Observer are that a quarter of a ton of plutonium has passed into the sea through this pipeline–enough, in theory, according to The Times, to kill 250 million people; much more than enough, in theory, according to the Observer, to destroy the population of the world. The plant was designed on the assumption that radioactive waste would lie harmlessly on the sea floor. That assumption proved false, but the plant has continued to operate in the hope that radioactive contamination may not be so very harmful, after all. If this hope is misguided, too, then Britain, in a time of peace, has silently, needlessly, passionlessly, visited upon us all a calamity equal to the worst we fear.

The complete article

Marilynne Robinson — Granta

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2 thoughts on “THE WASTE LAND

  1. While I don’t doubt the veracity of the report into Sellafield, it is, after all a nuclear decommissioning site, I would like to challenge the bit about DDT. On the Pesticide Properties Database, it claims there is no use of DDT in the UK (nor any other European country).
    As a citizen of the UK, and from a farming background, although not farming myself. I can assure you I have not heard of anyone using the pesticide. That’s not to say I know everything, of course, but then we can only go on what we read and observe.
    DDT is used in some African countries, and India for things like malaria control. It is also manufactured in the USA, but only for export.
    The Sellafield situation is certainly one that needs looking into seriously.

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