accused over Sellafield pollution
The Guardian, April 29, 2003
by David Hencke, Westminster correspondent
Original address: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,945317,00.html
Norway has accused Britain of ruining its lucrative
Arctic lobster business by failing to stop radioactive discharges from
The Norwegian environment minister, Borge Brende,
has protested to his UK counterpart, Michael Meacher, over the delays
in implementing a plan to stop discharges from Sellafield of the chemical
technetium-99 into the Irish sea. The chemical, once absorbed by humans,
accumulates in the thyroid gland and intestinal tract and greatly increases
A leaked ministerial letter from the Norwegians,
seen by the Guardian, expresses anger and frustration that Britain has
failed to fulfil a promise to stop the discharges, which were resumed
nine years ago.
The row has been fuelled by the discovery of a big
rise in the chemical found in lobsters caught off Norway's coast, and
the prices of "Arctic-quality" lobsters are falling as a result.
Britain has undertaken to reduce radioactive discharges from Sellafield
but has increased the discharges of technetium-99.
The Norwegians have also protested to the European
commission, asking it to intervene. In June Norway and Ireland will
carry their protests to the meeting of the Ospar commission in Bremen,
Germany, which controls pollutant discharges into the sea.
Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat environment spokesman,
said: "The leaked letter which was given to me is couched in pretty
undiplomatic language. The effect if nothing is done about stopping
these discharges will be very serious."
The environment agency has been monitoring moves
to introduce a new procedure to render the chemical harmless, but this
has been delayed for three months because of technical problems.
The agency is to consult on whether British Nuclear
Fuels should build a £100m storage facility so it can impose a
moratorium on future discharges. Mr Meacher has told the Norwegians
that he is reluctant to impose one without a new storage facility.