threatened over Sellafield row
The Independent, 29 June 2003
By Severin Carrell
Original address: http://news.independent.co.uk/business/news/story.jsp?story=419988
Ireland's attempt to sue Britain over radioactive
discharges from BNFL's Sellafield site has been thrown into disarray
after the European Commission claimed its action was illegal.
In an unexpected twist in the long-running battle,
the Commission has itself threatened to take legal action against Ireland
unless Dublin drops its claim over Sellafield's discharges into the
Irish Sea. The Commission wrote to Bertie Ahern's government in May
claiming that Ireland was illegally bypassing the EU's legal system
by trying to take action under two other marine conventions.
It has now challenged Dublin, dealing a potentially
fatal blow to Ireland's long-running attempts to stop or heavily cut
waste dumping by BNFL from its reprocessing of MOX nuclear fuel.
Ireland claims Britain has broken its legal obligations
to protect the marine environment and had pursued its main case under
the UN's Convention on the Law of the Sea. But the Convention's arbitration
tribunal delivered one serious setback to Ireland's case last week.
It refused Dublin's request for immediate measures that would in effect
close the MOX plant pending the full hearing of the case, which will
take place later this year.
However, in what is a turf war over legal jurisdiction,
the Commission has told Ireland it has no legal right to take action
under the UN Convention or through the second legal route being pursued
by Dublin, the Ospar pact on marine pollution.
The Commission claims these actions improperly by-pass
the EU's legal framework, which Ireland is obliged to follow as a member
The Independent on Sunday revealed last week that
the UK Government had unexpectedly struck a deal with Norway to suspend
the dumping of radioactive Technetium-99 into the Irish Sea for nine
months. The deal, a u-turn in British policy, is expected to lead the
Norwegians to dropping their own threatened legal action against the