Winkles (Littorina littorea) and mussels (Mytilus edulis) collected on the Cumbrian coast contain americium-241 and isotopes of plutonium discharged from the nuclear-fuel reprocessing plant at Sellafield. Shellfish have been fed to rats and measurements made of the gastrointestinal absorption of the actinides. For shellfish collected over a 1-year period from March 1983 to February 1984, the average values for the fractional absorption of plutonium and americium were 9 × 10-4 and 3 × 10-4, respectively, for winkles and 1.5 × 10-3 and 6 × 10-4, respectively, for mussels. Comparisons with results for winkles collected in December 1981 and mussels collected in July 1982 suggest that there may be considerable seasonal variation in the availability of the actinides for absorption. The results suggest that in calculations of doses to individuals consuming shellfish in west Cumbria, it may be prudent to examine the effect of using the new ICRP gut transfer factor of 1 × 10-3 for both actinides, in comparison with the value of 5 × 10-4 recommended previously by NRPB. The use of 1 × 10-3 would increase the estimate of the committed effective dose equivalent for 1985 intakes, from the value of 0.73 mSv calculated by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, to 1.29 mSv. However, taking into account up-to-date estimates of the retention of the actinides in liver and bone would reduce this value to 1.07 mSv. If, in addition, allowance is made for the effect of the burial and recycling of actinides in bone, a significant reduction in the dose estimate could result; for example, the use of one proposed dynamic bone model would reduce the value from 1.07 to 0.54 mSv.