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Historisk arkiv

Discharges of radioactive substances from the Sellafield reprocessing plant

Historisk arkiv

Publisert under: Regjeringen Stoltenberg I

Utgiver: Miljøverndepartementet

Discharges of radioactive substances from the Sellafield reprocessing plant

Joint Letter to the British Minister for the Environment

The Rt. Hon. Michael Meacher, MP
Minister for the Environment,
Department for the Environment,
Transport and Regions
Eland House
Bressenden Place
London SW 1 E 5 DU

21 August 2001

Dear Sir,

We, the Nordic Ministers of the Environment, meeting in Ivalo in Finland 20 August 2001, would like once again to communicate our deep concern about the discharges of radioactive substances from the Sellafield reprocessing plant.

You are no doubt aware that reprocessing facilities for spent nuclear fuel, and in particular the UK Sellafield plant, is the main source of radioactive discharges to the North East Atlantic. When we today met again at the Ministerial meeting of the Euro Arctic Barents Region in Kirkenes, we were reminded that Sellafield is the principal current source of radioactive contamination not only in the Irish Sea and the North Sea, but in the vulnerable Barents Sea as well. The Barents Region depends heavily on the utilisation of marine living resources, and radioactive pollution of the Barents Sea is therefore a matter of considerable concern to us.

The last few days we have again got disturbing news regarding Sellafield. It has been documented that concentrations of radioactive components have increased in the Barents sea and in Nortern sea areas.

We therefore take this opportunity to remind you that despite the obligations taken by the United Kingdom at the ministerial meeting of the OSPAR Commission in Sintra in 1998, discharges of radioactive substances from Sellafield to the marine environment have not been reduced. In 1994, discharges of technetium-99 (Tc-99) increased 50-fold, and despite repeated protests from the international community, these discharges still remain high. Recent informations have also revealed that the total discharges of radioactive substances from Sellafield have increased since 1998, and are expected to increase further in the years to come.

At the Ministerial meeting of the OSPAR Commission in Sintra in 1998, the Ministers committed themselves to prevent radioactive pollution of the maritime area through progressive and substantial reductions in emissions and discharges of radioactive substances to the maritime area in the years to come. Despite this comitment and repeated protests from Ireland and the Nordic countries, British authorities have proposed to retain the current discharge limit for technetium-99 until 2006. The likely result of continued discharges at the present high levels is that the increasing trends of Tc-99 levels in marine biota will continue.

We would also like to remind you that at the OSPAR meeting in Copenhagen in June 2000, the contracting parties decided that current authorisations for discharges or releases of radioactive substances from nuclear reprocessing facilities should be reviewed as a matter of priority.

The Nordic Countries will closely follow the development and look forward with interest to your Governments positive decision in this matter.

Sincerely yours,

Satu Hassi
Minister for the Environment, Finland

Svend Auken
Minister for the Environment, Denmark

Siri Bjerke
Minister for the Environment, Norway

Siv Fridleifsdóttir
Minister for the Environment, Iceland

Kjell Larsson
Minister for the Environment, Sweden

c.c The Rt. Hon. Tony Blair MP
Prime minister and First Lord of the Treasury