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A Brief Aerial Survey in the Vicinity of Sellafield in September 1990

By D.C.W. Sanderson, J.D. Allyson, K.J. Cairns, P. MacDonald and University of Glasgow: Scottish Universities Research and Reactor Centre


A two day survey exercise was conducted by SURRC from 25th-26th September 1990 with the joint aims of demonstrating the potential of helicopters for emergency response and beginning the definition of baseline levels in the immediate vicinity of Sellafield. The aircraft used for this work was a twin engined AS 355 "Squirrel" helicopter chartered from Dollar Helicopters. It was loaded with an 8 litre NaI gamma spectrometry system at SURRC in East Kilbride on the afternoon of 24th September and flown down to Sellafield the same day. Over the following two days roughly 1300 gamma ray spectra were recorded from an area ranging south from an EW line linking Ennerdale Fell and St. Bees Head to beyond Ravenglass. Operations were conducted from the Sellafield helipad, the aircraft being refuelled at Barrow in Furness.\ud \ud The flights were arranged to provide nominally 1km spaced parallel NS flight lines throughout the survey area, for the purpose of baseline mapping. Supplementary flights to improve spatial resolution are possible at a later stage. In addition a rapid response flight route was rehearsed involving definition of landward arcs at 10km, 5km and 2km radii from Sellafield plus the beachline from St. Bees Head to Ravenglass. The precise path was chosen to be navigable under most weather conditions and took roughly 40 minutes to fly. A survey aircraft arriving from East Kilbride could perform such a survey without pausing to refuel. \ud \ud The results have been stored archivally and used to map the naturally occurring nuclides 40K, 214Bi, 208Tl together with 137 Cs and total gamma ray flux. The maps presented are spatially smoothed, both by the inherent character of the aerial survey technique and by the colour contouring processes. This leads to a tendency to broaden spatial features, while slightly reducing maximum values, and should be taken into account when interpreting the maps. Greater spatial detail could be achieved with closer flight line spacing. Activity due to Sellafield was readily detected in the area and can be seen clearly in the maps. It is noted that the levels observed are generally comparable with those in BNFL annual reports and other research publications. Furthermore, with a few exceptions, naturally occurring radionuclides are the dominant radiation source in much of the survey area, and show considerable variations from place to place. 137Cs due to marine discharges was most pronounced in the Irt, Mite and Esk estuaries and on the beachline close to the plant. The same nuclide was detected at lower levels in terrestrial areas due to a combination of global fallout, aerial discharges from the plant and the Chernobyl accident. 41Ar and 16N activities were detected in the immediate vicinity of Calder Hall. A small feature was detected at Drigg, probably associated with current operations on the site, and equivalent to an enhancement of less than twice the local natural background. \ud \ud Radiation levels due to current activities on the Sellafield site fall off rapidly with distance from the perimeter, approaching natural levels within 0.5-1km at the time of the survey. Those from the marine, estuarine and tide washed environments are mostly attributed to past marine discharges, and can be expected to continue to receive attention in the future

Publisher: Scottish Universities Research and Reactor Centre
Year: 1990
OAI identifier:
Provided by: Enlighten

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