HMNB Devonport
HMNB Devonport

Luke Pollard MP hosted a roundtable yesterday to discuss plans from Devonport Dockyard to release radioactive rainwater into the River Tamar. The naval base have requested that they be allowed to dispose of ‘low level contaminated water’ into a river which separates Devon from Cornwall, which is used by many people for swimming and other leisure activities and constitutes part of the Tamar valley, a World Heritage Site.

The roundtable was attended by 25 people including Royal Navy Commodore Peter Coulson and radiological protection expert Richard Clarke. Mr Coulson stated that normally these plans would have been discussed by a local liaison committee, however Covid regulations meant that this step has been postponed until September.

Mr Clarke pointed out that two years ago, a regular review of the Dockyard’s waste disposable practices decided that due to the extremely low levels of radioactivity in the water, there were no environmental benefits to treating the rainwater before releasing it into the Tamar River.

Pamela Buchan, a Labour Councillor in Honicknowle ward and marine social scientist, argued that there could be some cause for concern around HMNB Devonport’s disposal of radioactive material, even if in very small quantities. She said:

“Over the past year I’ve been supporting Ernesettle residents in their bid to see the protected Tamerton Lake (or Ernesettle Creek) better looked after, particularly after numerous pollution incidents in the past. Pollutants go up and down stream in tidal areas so it’s important to consider impacts over a wide area.


“It’s been reassuring to hear how low the level of radiation being discussed is, but there is a wider issue about how we treat the Tamar and Plymouth’s marine and tidal waters, and how Plymouth people get to shape decisions being made about the local marine environment.”

Luke Pollard MP stated:

“I am concerned that the Naval Base wants to release radioactive rainwater into the river. In the middle of a climate crisis we should be polluting less, not polluting more.


“The roundtable helped answer a lot of people’s concerns. The radioactivity that is being released – we heard – is the equivalent of two thirds of a banana, but nonetheless, I think this application has brought to the public attention very valid questions about the environment, public health and how the Naval Base communicates. I’ll be submitting to the EA consultation and would encourage people to do the same.”

Luke Pollard MP concluded the roundtable by stating that he expected the Environment Agency to make a swift response to the consultation, and that he hoped for all further communications to be in plain English so that residents are not alarmed.

The deadline to submit views on the Environment Agency’s website is 27th July – you can access the site here.  

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