THE Labour candidate for the Central Ayrshire constituency at the next General Election is supported by the GMB Scotland trade union.

The GMB is a champion of the nuclear fuels industry and of nuclear weapons.

The Labour candidate for my constituency of Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock will follow the UK Labour Party line which supports Trident and is calling for new nuclear power stations in Scotland.

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My party, the SNP, is firmly opposed to both.

Just last month, The Guardian released a video explaining why the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant in Cumbria, a short distance down the coast from my constituency and upstream from it, is “Europe’s most dangerous industrial site”, pointing out that Sellafield has failed to contain numerous threats, including a cybersecurity breach by groups linked to Russia and China and of growing physical cracks in its “most hazardous facility”.

In 2016, researchers at Glasgow University reported “enhanced” radioactivity levels, in shellfish catches, at a number of coastal locations in Cumbria, near the Sellafield plant, and on the west coast of Scotland, including the village of Maidens, in my Ayrshire constituency.

The level of contamination, 348 Becquerels per kg, found at Maidens is lower than the “safe” level of 1000 Bq/kg set for the UK, in 1986 after the Chernobyl event.

However, in Japan the government sets a level of only 100 Bq/kg as a safe maximum for food, far lower than the level found at Maidens.

Seafood consumption is, of course, more common in Japan than in Scotland but there will still be some in my constituency put at risk by this contamination.

In 2015, the same Glasgow researchers, focusing only on coastal villages in Cumbria and looking at changes in radioactive contamination from 2000-11, found very large increases and levels as high as 2596 Bq/kg by 2011, 13 years ago.

In 2017, the same researchers again, looking at nuclear reprocessing-related radiocarbons in Apex predators such as harbour porpoises and seals, with sampling sites in Girvan, in my constituency, and Troon in Central Ayrshire, found contamination in Harbour Porpoises at 238 Bq/kg and in harbour seals at 284 Bq/Kg, and noted that distance from Sellafield, Girvan and Troon was a key factor.

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I await independent expert advice on the significance of the different “safe” levels operating in the UK and Japan but find it hard to avoid the conclusion that UK governments may be more disposed to protect businesses than the general public.

In 1957, after a fire at the Sellafield plant, then called Seascale, small but significant amounts of the highly dangerous radioactive isotope polonium-210 (used to kill the Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko in 2006) were also released into the air, though knowledge of this was excluded from government reports until 1983.

Prevailing winds, though primarily south-westerly, do at times blow from due south and bring airborne pollution directly into south-west Scotland from Cumbria.

There have been numerous reports of leaks from Sellafield in the decades that followed but in 2023, there were reports of worsening leaks and the revelation in The Guardian that, in 2019, around 2.5 cubic metres of radioactive “liquor” were being released into the Irish Sea every day.

The predominant currents take those leaks around the coastal edge of my constituency and the western fringes of Scotland.

In the light of the above reports, it seems more than probable that the level of contamination at Maidens will now be close to the UK “safe” level and many times that accepted in Japan.

The governments of Ireland, Norway and the Isle of Man have called for the closure of Sellafield and reprocessing has stopped since 2022.

When is the site expected to be fully cleaned up, leaks prevented, and closed? The answer is 2133, ie 109 years hence!

Might the Labour or Conservative parties commit to the costs of an accelerated programme to decommission it, based on enhanced safety standards to protect my constituents?

I think you know the answer to that one.

Will Scottish Labour abandon their commitment to investing in the supposedly safer small modular reactor (SMR) nuclear power stations when their researchers get round to reading the 2022 peer-reviewed research suggesting that these produce up to 30 times as much waste and so will require even larger “Sellafields” to be built as far away from London as their still together UK can manage?