A few weeks ago it was the anniversary of the Windscale Fire in October 1957 at the nuclear complex on the Cumbria coast. Because of the newsreels at the time which highlighted pollution around the complex it’s assumed that this pollution occurred at the time of the fire. However the picture is more complex. Indeed, MANY TIMES GREATER pollution was released because of the faulty design of the towers of the two Piles at Windscale prior to the fire than at the time of the actual incident.
This documentary produced some years ago shows that scientists at the complex were alarmed at the levels of pollution escaping from the plant four years before the fire, however their concerns went unheeded. It’s important to realise here that although the towers had filters these were ineffective and became more so over time. The volume of radioactively polluted air passing through the filters BEFORE THE FIRE was one tonne PER SECOND and air movement out of the tower was 50-55 mph:
At the time of the fire the prevailing wind was NE and therefore it is assumed today that its effects on areas such as SW Scotland, England, Wales the Isle of Man and Ireland was limited. Indeed during the fire the radiation went fairly swiftly out over the North Sea, some eventually being recorded in Holland. However in the years before the prevailing winds blew in every direction from the plant dispersing particles from the chimneys in significant quantities and this the documentary highlighted was known about and ignored. When finally admitted it was tucked away in a paragraph of a report no one noted at the time.
Ironically although highly dangerous at the time the 1957 Windscale Fire turned out to be a blessing in disguise as afterwards when the UK government reviewed the situation and understood the extent of PRE-FIRE pollution caused by the two Windscale’s Piles the decision was taken not to restart the undamaged Pile and instead close both down.
Interestingly (and as an aside) John Dunster gets a work on part briefly in the documentary Dunster of course is the UK scientist who presided over controlled leaks of radiation into the marine environment of the North Irish sea to ‘monitor its effect’ the so called ‘experiment’!
Image: The Towers and Piles at Windscale now being demolished decommissioning will take until 2040.
AGS Celtic League (3rd December 2021)