Friends of the Earth said official monitoring had failed to detect the levels of radioactivity at sites along the shore, stretching from Sellafield in Cumbria as far south as Bangor in north Wales.
Friends of the Earth is launching a campaign against plans by the state-owned British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) to increase its levels of radioactive discharges when a second reprocessing plant at Sellafield, known as THORP, becomes active later this year.
Operations at Sellafield have been halted for the past month and the plant is likely to stay shut for a further three weeks at least. At the beginning of September, some 6 gallons (27.2 litres) of plutonium nitrate liquid leaked out of the plant's plutonium evaporator, contaminating the stainless steel- lined concrete cell containing the vessel. Workers have cleaned up the visible contamination and work is under way to identify the source of the leak, believed to be corrosion in a weld.
Friends of the Earth said the levels of radioactivity it had detected at the 'hot spots' was not high - but showed the extent of contamination and the failure of official monitoring. A detailed report is to be published next month. BNFL dismissed the claims as 'scaremongering'.
The radiation campaigner for Friends of the Earth, Dr Patrick Green, said in Lytham St Anne's, Lancashire, where increased levels of radiation were allegedly found: 'It is clear that Sellafield has produced a formidable legacy of radioactive contamination that will be a risk to the public for many generations.'
BNFL said it and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food carried out extensive monitoring of the coast. 'If they found 'hot spots', or something that was a danger to the public, we would know about it,' a spokeswoman said. 'This report is scaremongering and unnecessary. Their reports in the past have been found to be wanting and we expect this to be the same.'
'Hot spots' included: the mouths of the rivers Irt and Mite in the Ravenglass estuary south of Sellafield, Walney Island near Barrow-in-Furness, Arnside and Parkside on the Kent estuary, Parkhead and Meerness Point at the mouth of the River Leven, all in Cumbria; Banks Marsh, Hesketh, Warton Bank, Freckleton and Lytham Marsh on the Ribble estuary, and the River Ribble near Preston, Lancashire.
In Cheshire: the River Mersey at Neston Marsh, Hale and Widnes, and River Dee at Chester.
North Wales: Connah's Quay, Flint Marsh and Bagillt Marsh on the River Dee, Talacre near Prestatyn, Aber, Llanfairfechan and Lavan Sands, and Penrhyn Harbour at Bangor.
Dr Green said 32 sites had radiation levels above a 'trigger level' laid down by the National Radiological Protection Board, and 29 of them exceeded its actual limit. 'It means there is contamination and the potential there for people to receive a radiation dose above the legal maximum,' he said.Reuse content