The Irish Sea, which lies between 51 degrees N-56 degrees N and 2 degrees 50'W-7 degrees W, provides a sheltered environment to exploit valuable fisheries resource. Anthropogenic activity is a real threat to its water quality. The majority of freshwater input down rivers flows into the eastern Irish Sea. The structure of the water circulation was not well understood during the planning of Sellafield nuclear plant outfall site in the eastern Irish Sea.A three-dimensional primitive equation numerical model was applied to the Irish Sea to simulate both barotropic and baroclinic circulation within the region. High accuracy was achieved with regard to the prediction of both tidal circulation and surface and nearbed water temperatures across the region. The model properly represented the Western Irish Sea Gyre, induced by thermal stratification and not known during planning Sellafield. Passive tracer simulations based on the developed hydrodynamic model were used to deliver residence times of the eastern Irish Sea region for various times of the year as well as travel times from the Sellafield outfall site to various locations within the Irish Sea.The results indicate a strong seasonal variability of travel times from Sellafield to the examined locations. Travel time to the Clyde Sea is the shortest for the autumnal tracer release (90 days); it takes almost a year for the tracer to arrive at the same location if it is released in January. Travel times from Sellafield to Dublin Bay fall within the range of 180-360 days. The average residence time of the entire eastern Irish Sea is around 7 months. The areas surrounding the Isle of Man are initially flushed due to a predominant northward flow; a backwater is formed in Liverpool Bay. Thus, elevated tracer concentrations are predicted in Liverpool Bay in the case of accidental spills at the Sellafield outfall site. (c) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.