The Irish Sea, like any other marine environment, is subject to natural and artificial radioactivity. The biggest source of artificial radiation currently is coming from the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant in the north west of England. Formerly called Windscale, the plant reprocesses spent fuel from nuclear power reactors and is also involved in storage of nuclear waste. Two nuclear reactors at the site (the Calder Hall reactors) were closed down in March 2003.
A pipeline, about 3 km from land, takes liquid radioactive waste from the plant to the Irish Sea. Gases are released from the plant via a number of chimneys. The United Kingdom Environment Agency is in charge of regulating the discharges from Sellafield. On this side of the Irish Sea, the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) conducts a monitoring programme of radioactivity. The results of this monitoring are published on the EPA website.
Results year to year vary, with the level of radiation emitted from the plant into the Irish Sea remaining very small. In fact, the amount found in sea life and plants, which can then be transferred to humans, is less than 1 per cent of the total radiation dose received by a member of the Irish public from all sources of radiation.
The real risk to Ireland posed by the Sellafield facility is the potential radiation dose caused by a serious explosion or terrorist attack on the complex.
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