Consequences in Norway after a hypothetical accident at Sellafield

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Published 25.01.2011, updated 01.10.2014 14:16

Keywords: Radioactivity in the environment, Sellafield

Selleafield (Photo: NRPA)Today NRPA publishes a report which describes the possible environmental consequences for Norway due to a hypothetical accident at the Sellafield complex in the UK.
The scenario considered involves an explosion and fire at the B215 facility resulting in a 1 % release of the total HAL  inventory of radioactive waste with a subsequent air transport and deposition in Norway. Air transport modelling is based on real meteorological data from October 2008 with wind direction towards Norway and heavy precipitation. This weather is considered to be quite representative as typical seasonal weather. Based on this weather scenario, the estimated fallout in Norway will be ~17 PBq of caesium-137 which is 7 times higher than the fallout from the Chernobyl accident.

The modelled radioactive contamination is linked with data on transfer to the food chain and statistics on production and hunting to assess the consequences for foodstuffs. The investigation has been limited to the terrestrial environment, focussing on wild berries, fungi, and animals grazing unimproved pastures (i.e. various types of game, reindeer, sheep and goats).

The predicted consequences are severe – especially in connection to sheep and goat production. Up to 80 % of the lambs in Norway could be exceeding the food intervention levels for radiocaesium the first years after the fallout, with 30-40 % likely to be above for many years. There will, consequently, be a need for extensive countermeasures in large areas for years or even decades involving several hundred thousand animals each year. Large consequences are also expected for reindeer husbandry – the first year in particular due to the time of fallout which is just prior to winter slaughter. The consequences will be most sever for reindeer herding in middle and southern parts of Norway, but problems may reach as far north as Finnmark where we find the majority of Norwegian reindeer production. The consequences for game will mostly depend on the regional distribution of species. For instance, the density of moose is very low in the most contaminated western parts of Norway, whereas a considerable fraction of red deer is found in these areas. Consumption restrictions will probably be needed for moose, red deer and roe deer in many areas.

Download the report here.