NORDIC MINISTERS PROTEST EMISSIONS
FROM SELLAFIELD TO NORTH ATLANTIC
Either technetium-99 emissions from Sellafield should be
decreased as soon as possible, or radioactive waste from the
facility should be stored until better disposal techniques can
be found, Nordic environment ministers have told their British
In a strongly worded statement released during the Nordic
Council's annual meeting in Copenhagen, environment ministers
from the five Nordic countries called on the UK to live up
to its commitment under the OSPAR convention governing
protection of the northeast Atlantic. The Nordic ministers said
that by signing the convention in 1998, the British had committed
to make reductions as early as 2000 and to prepare a
national strategy by the summer of 2002 for further reductions
in a multi-national framework.
They said they are also concerned that the British government's
recent approval for startup of a new mixed-oxide
(MOX) fuel fabrication plant at Sellafield will only make the
Among the Nordic countries, various Icelandic and
Norwegian governments have pushed particularly hard for
Sellafield emissions to be cut, as has Ireland. Norway's new
conservative-coalition government, which took office in October,
also wasted no time in tackling the issue.
Immediately after being appointed, Norwegian Environment
Minister Boerge Brende asked government lawyers and
foreign ministry officials to look into bringing legal action
against the British government to stop Sellafield emissions, on
the grounds that they are breaking an international agreement.
On Oct. 29, during a session of European Union ministers
in Luxembourg, Brende met with U.K. Environment Minister
Michael Meacher and Secretary of State Margaret Beckett
from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.
He told them that the Sellafield emissions are
"unacceptable...The British should be reproached for showing
so little concern about the environment." The Nordic ministers'
statement was a follow-up to that meeting.
During a press conference in Copenhagen, Brende said,
"We will consider it extreme provocation if Great Britain
continues to emit technetium from Sellafield into the North
Atlantic." He added that the British "are choosing short-term
economic solutions (for waste disposal) at the expense of the
Both he and Icelandic Environment Minister Siv Fridleifsdottir
said they are concerned that their countries' commercial
fishing industries are losing business because potential customers
believe their catches are contaminated. "We can't tell
buyers that 'the fish is only slightly radioactive,"' Brende
Fridleifsdottir said she is also concerned that Sellafield is
a potential terrorist target, following the Sept. 11 attacks in
the United States.
Brende said he hopes to meet with Meacher again, in
London, before the December holidays and to visit Sellafield.
He said he also wants to discuss the issue with European
Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstroem. Wallstroem,
however, has told Nucleonics Week that the EC and the European
Union do not have jurisdiction when it comes to Sellafield
(NW, 11 Oct., 15).-Ariane Sains, Stockholm