December 2001

Last-ditch bid to stop MOX nuclear plant from opening

The Irish Independent, December 18, 2001
By Bernie O'Toole

[Posted 19/12/2001]

THE Government has launched a last ditch legal bid to try to halt the opening of the controversial MOX nuclear reprocessing plant at Sellafield on Thursday.

The move comes after it emerged that several reactors were closed at the nuclear facility without the Irish Government being informed in line with stated agreements.

Junior Minister Joe Jacob said the Government presented what he called "its substantive case" against MOX to the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea yesterday.

The tribunal's 21 judges who claimed jurisdiction in the case ruled earlier this month that the UK must share information with Ireland about the £475m plant.

But Mr Jacob, the minister with responsibility for nuclear safety, told a press conference that it had not been evident there had been a major improvement in the level of co-operation from the UK authorities.

He said neither the Government nor the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland had been informed about the closure of the reactors which was reported in weekend newspapers and that protests would be made accordingly.

"Our lack of trust grows all the time quite frankly," he said. "I think there's a moral obligation on the UK authorities not to proceed with MOX until these legal issues are concluded," he said.

"We are embarked on a well prepared, long-term legal strategy. We are fully resolved to proceed with that strategy," he said.

The international tribunal declined to give the Government an injunction preventing the plant, which will create nuclear fuel from plutonium and repreprocessed waste from the adjoining Thorp plant, becoming operational.

But Mr Jacob said they had got enough encouragement from the hearing to proceed further with its case before the tribunal which he said was the most "expeditious route".

The Irish Government's stance won the backing of the Norwegian government whose Environment Minister Mr Borge Brenda met with Deputy Jacob in Dublin yesterday.

Mr Brenda pledged his goverment's full moral and political support to the Irish Government's fight against Sellafield and the opening of MOX.

He said the Norwegian government was also looking at legal moves to prevent radioactive emissions in the sea from Sellafield which he said were unnecessary.

The Norwegian minister said that if Ireland did not win its case at the tribunal it would not be because the country did not have a good case.

Fine Gael has accused Taoiseach Bertie Ahern of letting the British Government "off the hook" over Sellafield, writes Karl Brophy.

Party Environmental spokesperson Deirdre Clune said that the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland will not be visiting the controversial plant despite an open invitation from British Nuclear Fuels.

"The Taoiseach has confirmed in a letter to Fine Gael leader Michael Noonan that the RPII will not meet with BNFL until the January 14 next and that meeting will take place in Dublin and not Sellafield as previously envisaged," said Ms Clune.

"The Taoiseach also stated in his letter that 'a visit to Sellafield will follow if considered useful by the RPII'." She described this approach as "lax". "This is an extraordinary turn of events, considering the Taoiseach has made great play of the the fact that he is putting pressure at the highest levels to have Sellafield closed down," she said.

Fine Gael is now demanding to know why an invitation from BNFL to visit the plant, issued on November 3, has not been taken up.

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