June 2001

Sellafield emissions predicted to rise

Daily Telegraph / Electronic Telegraph, 26 June 2001
By Charles Clover

[Posted 27/06/2001]

Radioactive emissions from Sellafield will rise over the next three years, despite a treaty signed by John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, three years ago to reduce them steadily, according to a leaked report. It is predicted that emissions to the sea of carcinogenic substances such as plutonium and tritium will peak in 2003 and remain above 1998 levels until 2008. Several plutonium isotopes are among the likely discharges, according to the predictions, confirmed yesterday by the Environment Agency.

Plutonium is a substance with no safe level of exposure and even a speck, if it found its way into food for human consumption, would be enough to cause cancer. One of the British Nuclear Fuels documents leaked to Greenpeace and Cumbrians Opposed to the Nuclear Environment says that, in the worst case, discharges could be above legal limits.

The predictions were published by Greenpeace on the eve of this week's meeting of signatories to the Ospar treaty, which governs sea pollution in the north-east Atlantic.

At a meeting in Sintra, Portugal, in 1998, Mr Prescott, then Environment Secretary, signed up to the "progressive and substantial reductions" of Sellafield discharges, with the aim of concentrations of artificial radioactive substances in the environment being "close to zero" by 2020.

Coincidentally, emissions, which are currently all within discharge limits set by the Environment Agency, are predicted to peak by the time of the next meeting of ministers from Ospar countries in 2003.

Dr Helen Wallace, Greenpeace nuclear campaigner, said: "Emissions going up is clearly not what most Ospar governments understand by Britain's commitments under the treaty which says that emissions should progressively be going down."

A spokesman for BNF said: "The Government should stand up to BNF and make sure they keep their promise. These discharges are polluting countries from Ireland to the Arctic with dangerous radioactivity. We're committed to help the Government reach its commitments under Ospar."

"These emissions are partly from processing historic arisings from the nuclear industry over the past 50 years that we are committed to the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate to work off. The figures compiled by Greenpeace conveniently do not show that Magnox reprocessing will end in 2012, well within Ospar's commitment period."

Sellafield's Magnox nuclear reactors are all due to close by 2010.

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