A Hundred Thousand Years
© Michael St.Mark 2013
After Damien Hirst’s 1990 ” A Thousand Years”
Topical as reminder of the UK’s very own Chernobyl, this completely man-made ( or more accurately politician ambition-caused ) nuclear accident, the severity of which was covered-up at the time with, predictably, the workers who saved the day taking the rap.
Image; Reactor pile no 1 chimney still containing ten tons of melted uranium fuel from the Windscale ( now Sellafield) fire in 1957 that will remain highly radioactive beyond 1000 human generations.
In October 1957 a fire broke out in No 1 of the twin ‘piles’ or reactor rods encased within graphite cores; directly caused by the plant’s operational management – under orders from the then MacMillan government – pushing the reactor’s plutonium-producing operation way beyond its designed safety parameters, by stripping the hundreds of thousands of fuel rods’ cooling aluminium casing fins, then later removing magnesium safety casing completely to produce more Tritium; all in order to extract maximum fissile material to bump-up Britain’s atomic weapons programme in Harold MacMillan’s attempt to match / partner the US in power-broking terms on the nuclear world stage. ( source BBC documentary from 2004, linked below)
The raging fire was only discovered 50 hours after it had started and took three days to bring under control.
The blaze was caused by heat building up in the reactor after a series of safety ” blunders”. As the fire raged, workers at the plant used water to try to cool the reactor, which was only achieved after common sense was employed by the deputy works manager – the heroic Tom Tuohy – and the huge air fans that normally cooled the reactor, but which in this case were actually fanning the flames and spreading the reactor fire, were turned off.
However, tons of highly contaminated air escaped through the 400ft-high chimney ( see image ) and rose over the Lake District in a long grey plume. Eventually, radioactive particles fell on to the local countryside or were caught in a changing wind, which blew them further inland towards Wales and over the sea to Ireland.
” There was a release to atmosphere of radioactive material that spread across the UK and Europe. The fire released an estimated 740 terabecquerels (20,000 curies) of iodine-131, as well as 22 TBq (594 curies) of caesium-137 and 12,000 TBq (324,000 curies) of xenon-133, among other radionuclides. ” – Wiki
Official weather records citing the above were subsequently doctored to show the wind direction blowing the deadly radioactive plume out to sea for the entie duration of the fire, presumably to allay public concern.
Signed edition of one worldwide digital photo ( procured from the public road outside the Sellafield workers’ main gate ) 16MB file size( rendered to historical film coloration to reflect the era in which the fire took place ) giclee print, 32″ x 34″ hand-finished and to be bordered by a 5cm surround mount adhered with particles of surface mud-sand scooped from the local public beach ( officially non hazardous * ).
* ” In 1956 Calder Hall nuclear power station was opened alongside it to produce low-cost electricity for millions of homes. Back then, the long, sandy beach at the nearest town of Seascale was popular with swimmers.
But families are now too afraid to go there because radioactive contamination has been traced in shellfish, seaweed and the sand.
The levels of radioactivity recorded by Martin Forwood are so high that they would not be permitted under safety regulations for the inside of the huge nuclear plant itself. Indeed, they are higher than those taken within the 20-mile exclusion zone around Chernobyl, scene of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986. “
– Daily Mirror
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