Fouth quarter of 2001

Outcome of Court Case Opposing Ireland and the UK over Sellafield Mox Plant Remains Open

WISE-Paris, 4 December 2001

[Posted 04/12/2001]

On 3 December 2001, the UN Tribunal for the Law of the Sea passed a ruling in which it rejected the provisional measures submitted by the Irish party but prescribed others that may nevertheless hinder the full scale commissioning of the UK Sellafield MOX plant. While it refused to ask the UK to withdraw the authorisation for the operation of the MOX plant as requested by Ireland, it called on both parties to avoid any action that "might aggravate the dispute". The start-up of the plant would certainly have to be considered a serious aggravation of the dispute.

The parties are obliged now to "cooperate" and "enter into consultations forthwith in order to exchange further information with regard to possible consequences for the Irish Sea arising out of the commissioning of the MOX plant", (1) and have until 17 December 2001 to report back to the Tribunal. It can be assumed that the start-up of the MOX plant, which was scheduled for 20 December 2001, could be delayed.

The Tribunal also took note of the UK's statement (2) according to which "there will be no additional marine transports of radioactive material either to or from Sellafield as a result of the commissioning of the MOX plant", before October 2002. This poses the question of how Ireland, and consequently the International Tribunal, would react to the planned return of the rejected MOX fuel from Japan to Sellafield, scheduled to take place in 2002. (3)

The provisional measures will remain in force pending the constitution of an arbitration tribunal, the hearings of which are expected to take place in early 2002, within the framework of the International Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Ireland, which welcomed the Tribunal's decision that "the arbitral tribunal has jurisdiction", (4) has nevertheless decided to use its "right to return on the International Tribunal for further relief, as soon as 18th of December" if no agreement is reached by that time. Not only will it be "proceeding (in parallel) to persuade the OSPAR arbitration tribunal to order the United Kingdom to disclose the information on the MOX plant that it is withholding", it is also considering challenging the UK's economic justification argument before the European Court of Justice.


  1. International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, Hamburg, The MOX Plant Case (Ireland v. United Kingdom), Provisional Measures, Order 3 December 2001,
  2. International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, Hamburg, The MOX Plant Case (Ireland v. United Kingdom), Provisional Measures, public sitting 20 November 2001,
  3. Following the BNFL falsification scandal of 1999, Japan decided to send back the incriminated MOX fuel to Sellafield
  4. Joe Jacob, Minister in charge of Nuclear Safety, press release 3 December 2001

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