Page last updated at 11:05 GMT, Thursday, 25 February 2010

Gulls contaminated with radiation culled at Sellafield

Sellafield has several storage pools used to contain spent nuclear fuel

A cull is being considered of gulls which may have become contaminated with radiation from the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant in Cumbria.

Bosses say some birds may have got into open spent fuel storage ponds and become contaminated by low-level waste.

Sellafield Limited has stressed any contamination is so low that it would not pose a threat to public health.

However, the company is to consider methods to control bird numbers around the site.

A company spokeswoman said: "We are aware of the potential for gulls to become contaminated with low levels of radioactivity as a result of the operations at Sellafield.


"Contamination is particularly evident within the historic facilities such as open fuel storage ponds, which gulls can access, although there are a number of measures in place to prevent them from doing so easily.

"Monitoring and analysis has shown that the contamination is at such a low level that it poses no threat to health."

Several control methods are being considered, including egg-pricking during the breeding season from March to June.

The company said a specialist firm had been brought in to undertake the work in a "safe and humane" manner that would cause the gulls minimum distress and suffering.

The spokeswoman said the government and the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) were satisfied with the measures it was carrying out.

She added: "There is also a regular programme in place to ensure that any potential sources of nutrient and nesting material on site are removed, making it less attractive for the birds to nest and breed."

Any gulls culled on site are stored on the site.

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