Photo project around energy sites in the UK

Published on Wed Feb 24, 2021 by

A few years ago I started a project about energy sites and power stations in the UK. At the time I played football with a couple of engineers who worked in the industry and we applied for access to various power stations.

I wasn't interested in documenting the buildings or indeed the pros and cons of the use of fossil or nuclear fuel. Instead I wanted to examine the boundaries of these sites and impact either side on the natural environment. Because they are so secure the sites have become a wildlife haven, for both plants and animals. Unfortunately I didn't get security clearance to work inside, so decided to visit a few anyway looking inwards.

The following images are around a nuclear waste vault deep underground in Cumbria. The second trip was to the Fiddlers Ferry Power Station and within 5 minutes I was being questioned by armed police and despite being a member of the NUJ and holding a press card threatened with arrest. So the project ground to halt to be honest. But here are some images and information from Drigg in Cumbria.

Personal project in Cumbria

Personal project in Cumbria

Drigg is a village situated in the civil parish of Drigg and Carleton on the West Cumbria coast of the Irish Sea and on the boundary of the Lake District National Park in the Borough of Copeland in the county of Cumbria, England. During WW2 a Royal Ordnance Factory (ROF Drigg) was established at Drigg between the railway line and the sea. This is now the site of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority low-level radioactive waste repository. The site, which was opened in 1959 by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, covers about 270 acres (110 ha), and holds about one million cubic metres of radioactive waste, although historic disposal records are incomplete. Much of the waste came from the nearby Sellafield nuclear complex.

Personal project in Cumbria

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is a non-departmental public body of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. They oversee about a dozen businesses decommissioning sites and manage waste products, both radioactive and non-radioactive. Here in Drigg it is UK Nuclear Waste Management Ltd (who took ownership of LLWR Ltd in 2008) that is company that manages the facilitiy on a day to day basis.

The land around the site is fairly typical Cumbrian coastland, moors and waterlands. The site is set back from the coast - I guess as a protection against erosion. And this strip is now grazing land.

Personal project in Cumbria

Loads of wildflowers all around this particular Low Level Waste Repository (LLWR). And at dusk a badger crossed my path, about 10 metres away - unfortunately it was too quick for me and disappeared before I could take a photo.

Personal project in Cumbria

Initially the low-level radioactive waste was put in clay lined trenches, similar to land fill techniques. As late as 2007 techniques changed - vaults were created and waste compressed and added to containers. Recent planning permission means that the site will be used well into the next century, with a closure date of approximately 2130. The site also has shared usage with the Ministry of Defence for naval gun testing towards the sea.

Personal project in Cumbria

As the site here has been closed to the public since the Second World War, it will be close to two hundred years that the wildlife has remained untouched. Obviously there remains tons of low level waste in the ground and still a level of pollution from when it was home to a Royal Ordnance Factory. But still a really interesting ecosystem that hasn't been researched - or not that I have discovered anyway. I'd love to restart this project and visit other sites.

Personal project in Cumbria

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Tags: personal, landscape

Author: David J Colbran
David is one of the Liverpool photographers undertaking documentary photography projects - this looks at energy sites and wildlife implications.

Photo project around energy sites

A few years ago I started a project about energy sites and power stations in the UK, examining the boundaries of these sites and impact either side on the natural environment. Read more...

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