Sellafield operator hit with £3bn loss
The Irish Examiner, 3 June 2003
By Michael O'Farrell, Political Reporter
Original address: http://www.online.ie/news/irish_examiner/viewer.adp?article=2026543
SELLAFIELD nuclear facility's operators will announce
losses of £3 billion today, as Ireland prepares to launch a fresh
legal challenge against the controversial plant next week. British Energy,
which the British Government saved from collapse earlier this year,
will reveal its full-year figures showing unprecedented losses.
The accounts will reveal operating losses of £500m
and a devaluation of over £2.5bn on the company's eight nuclear
and one coal-fired power stations. The group also owes £1.3bn.
A spokesman for Environment Minister Martin Cullen
repeated the Irish Government's position that Sellafield can no longer
"We have always maintained that Sellafield
does not make sense, both from an environmental and an economic point
of view, and these latest figures just prove that," he said.
"The plant just can't be justified anymore
on any grounds, and we are aiming to prove that."
Ireland has already mounted several legal challenges
to Sellafield. The latest was taken under the Ospar Convention in the
Hague last year.
The Ospar Convention brings together 16 states which
commit to measures for the protection of the North Atlantic.
The result of that case, in which Ireland sought
access to reports on the economic status of the MOX plant at Sellafield,
is expected in the coming months.
A new case, under the United Nations Convention
on the Law of the Sea, will begin next week.
The new case will focus on radioactive discharges
from Sellafield into the Irish Sea. Britain has admitted this year that
discharges have increased, but put the increase down to older plants
being taken out of service.
Ministers from 16 North Atlantic countries will
discuss the matter when they gather later this month at an Ospar Convention.
However, only Norway and Denmark have supported
Ireland's call for reduced discharges. Initial measures were agreed
at the last Ospar ministerial meeting five years ago.
A statement prepared for the meeting in Bremen makes
no reference to alternatives to nuclear reprocessing.
Some 2000 cubic meters of nuclear by-product called
Technetium-99 (Tc-99) are stored in ageing waste tanks at Sellafield.
In the past, large volumes of the radioactive substance have been discharged
into the Irish Sea. Despite the last Ospar commitment, Britain's discharges
have actually grown instead of declining. Under its commitments Britain
is obliged to reduce its nuclear waste discharges to close to zero by
The British Nuclear Industries Inspectorate has
ordered the Tc-99 waste at Sellafield emptied by 2007, but its operators
are proposing to dump the nuclear waste into the Irish Sea. The first
dump is scheduled to take place in September.
Last month, Norwegian Environment Minister Borge
Brende met with his British counterpart Michael Meacher to propose a
moratorium on discharges, which was turned down.
Last week, the Irish Government wrote to the British
authorities about the mooted increase in discharges.