Press release | Date: 21/04/2004| No: 69-04
British authorities today gave permission for the introduction of a new cleansing method that will reduce the discharge of Technetium 99 from the Sellafield nuclear plant by over 90 per cent. The new method will be introduced with immediate effect. " “This is an important victory for Norway," Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik says. (21.04.04)
Date: 21 April 2004
End to controversial radioactive discharge:
Sellafield discharge issue solved
British authorities today gave permission for the introduction of a new cleansing method that will reduce the discharge of Technetium 99 from the Sellafield nuclear plant by over 90 per cent. The new method will be introduced with immediate effect. This is in line with the demands made over several years by Norway, the other Nordic countries and Ireland.
“This is an important victory for Norway. It demonstrates the value of dialogue and shows that the strategy of the Norwegian coalition government, which has always treated the battle against the Sellafield discharges as a top priority, has been successful. More important still is of course the fact that the end to the radioactive discharges will mean clean seafood supplies for all of us in the years ahead,” said Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik.
The Prime Minister expressed his thanks to the British Government for putting a stop to the Sellafield discharges. “I am very grateful that a successful solution has been found to this difficult issue in our otherwise close and good relationship with Britain,” he said.
Already in June last year, British authorities imposed a temporary stop to the discharges, pending the outcome of tests on a new cleansing method to remove technetium. A full-scale trial using the new technology was carried out last autumn, and has proved to be highly successful. The British authorities have now decided that the new method will be used for all the historic waste containing technetium still in storage at the Sellafield plant. BNFL, the plant operator, has decided to start using the new technology with immediate effect.
The Prime Minister thanked all those who have been involved in this matter over the years, adding that the positive solution is a result of a unique measure of national cooperation where the coastal population, environmental agencies, the fishing industry, the Church and political parties as well as local, regional and national authorities have all pulled together.
He praised the efforts of the Norwegian Environment Minister, Mr. Børge Brende, who never lost an opportunity to discuss the issue with his British colleagues and in international fora where radioactive pollution and the environment of the sea were on the agenda.
“This has not been an easy matter, but it shows how professional know-how, persistence and good personal relations at high level can produce results, also in an international context,” Mr. Bondevik said.
Environment Minister Børge Brende points out that the higher levels of technetium measured along the coast of Norway since 1997 are expected to decrease over the next few years to the same low level as before 1994, when the technetium discharges increased.
Mr. Brende praised his British colleagues, who, under the leadership of Mrs. Margaret Beckett, have been working hard to meet Norway’s demands for an end to the discharges. He particularly appreciates the fact that it has been possible to maintain a constructive professional dialogue and good personal relations. Mr. Brende also pointed to the successful cooperation between the Environment Agency and the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority (NRPA) and to the very useful contacts he has had with British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL), operator of the Sellafield plant.
“The close contact between Norwegian and British politicians, expert authorities and the industry has been a highly positive experience,” Mr. Brende said. “This dialogue led to new research on the British side, which again formed the basis for today’s successful outcome. I have come to believe firmly in this kind of cooperation in order to solve complicated international problems,” he added.
Mr. Brende stressed that it was the combination of solid expert argumentation and a strong and enduring popular involvement that enabled the Norwegian government to put such a strong political pressure on the British authorities.
“The Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority has done an impressive job in documenting the pollution of Norwegian waters. Its weighty expertise has helped bring forth a solution to the problem. In addition, a large number of coastal communities, organisations and individuals have pulled their weight in demanding a stop to the discharges. In particular, such organisation as Lofoten mot Sellafield, Bellona and Samarbeidsrådet for Vest- og Sørlandet (NAVOS) have made a contribution to show the broad Norwegian consensus in this matter,” Mr. Brende said.
“The fact that the discharges will now be stopped shows the value of fighting for the issues you believe in and that such joined efforts can tip the balance, even in an international context and against heavy odds,” Environment Minister Børge Brende concluded.