'did nothing' on radioactive waste pledge
Daily Telegraph, 22 April 2003
By Charles Clover, Environment Editor
Five years after John Prescott, the Deputy Prime
Minister, agreed to make
"progressive reductions" in radioactive discharges nothing
has happened, a
meeting will hear tomorrow.
Mr Prescott hailed the agreement at a ministerial
meeting in Sintra, Portugal, in 1998 as a ground-breaking development
that would lead to Britain shedding the tag of "the dirty man of
Environmentalists say the pledge ranks with Mr Prescott's
promise to reduce traffic growth, which was recorded several times after
he came to office and then denied by him five years later.
This one may be harder to get out of, as the Government
agreed to make "progressive and substantial reductions" in
radioactive discharges, mainly from Sellafield.
The agreement was signed by Mr Prescott at the last
meeting of the Oslo and Paris convention for the protection of the marine
environment of the north-east Atlantic (Ospar).
Its aim was "concentrations in the environment
near background values for naturally occurring radioactive substances
and close to zero for artificial radioactive substances" by 2020.
Environment ministers from Ospar countries are to
meet in Bremen in June, five years after Sintra, to review progress.
But environmentalists say there is little progress to review.
Discharges from Britain's reprocessing facilities
are higher now than in 1998. Countries with concerns about British radioactive
discharges detectable in their fish stocks, such as Norway, accuse London
and Paris of prevaricating in line with their national interests.
France and Britain want the baseline period for
progress to be measured against to be 1993 to 1997. This would enable
current discharges, though higher than in 1998, to be painted as a reduction.
Tomorrow's meeting of experts in London will try
to find a resolution to the problem. Jurgen Trittin, the German environment
minister, who will chair the Bergen meeting, wants the baseline issue
resolved before June.
Greenpeace says that Britain's national plan, published
late last year, "directly contradicts the Sintra agreement"
by allowing the nuclear industry to set its own timetable for reductions.
About 80 per cent of Sellafield's discharges are
attributable to the reprocessing of fuel from the first generation of
Magnox power stations. British Nuclear Fuels has said it will close
them over the next seven years.
Pete Roche of Greenpeace said: "Britain appears
to be willing to risk being vilified again as the dirty man of Europe
for the sake of keeping its five remaining decrepit, loss-making Magnox
reactors open for a few years and to continue with the pointless reprocessing
of spent nuclear waste fuel."
A spokesman for the Department for the Environment,
Food and Rural Affairs said: "Bremen will be a useful opportunity
to review progress of signatory member states. We have had no feedback
to suggest that progress has been anything other than satisfactory.
"By 2020 we will have reduced radioactive discharges
down to background levels."