The day a lorry leaked radioactive waste across Yorkshire during 130-mile trip

The radioactive waste came from a decommissioned radiotherapy machine at Cookridge Hospital, and was being taken to Sellafield nuclear power station for disposal
The radioactive waste came from a decommissioned radiotherapy machine at Cookridge Hospital, and was being taken to Sellafield nuclear power station for disposal
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In 2002, a lorry laid a potentially devastating trail of radioactive waste from Leeds to Cumbria during a bungled transportation attempt.

The vehicle was hauling a 2.5-ton container full of radioactive material from a decommissioned radiotherapy machine when it leaked during its journey across Yorkshire.

The waste had been collected from Cookridge Hospital in Leeds, then a specialist cancer treatment unit, to be taken to Sellafield nuclear power station in Cumbria for disposal in March 2002.

See inside the abandoned Cookridge Hospital
The Cobalt-60 material was put inside a safety flask within the container for the three-and-a-half hour journey.

It was later found that two employees of the contractor, AEA Technology, had failed to fit a safety plug, meaning that an 8mm-wide 'beam' of radioactivity leaked out onto the roads beneath the lorry during the 130-mile trip.

This is what happened when the Yorkshire Post visited the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in 2006
They were later fined £250,000 and ordered to pay £151,000 in costs at a court hearing.

The levels of radiation measured when the leak was discovered were up to 1,000 times more than a 'very high' dose. Members of the public would have been exposed to dangerous amounts and have suffered radiation burns within eight seconds.

Luckily, the beam was pointing downwards, so nobody came into direct contact with it.

Ironically, one of the roads the vehicle travelled on was close to a Cumbrian sheep farmer's land that had already been contaminated by fall-out from the Chernobyl power plant disaster in Ukraine in 1986. David Ellwood's farm is only 15 miles from Sellafield and his sheep have to be monitored for traces of radioactivity before they are sent to auction.

Cookridge Hospital closed in 2008.