NORWAY'S ENVIRONMENT HEAD CALLS
FISHERMEN TO OPPOSE SELLAFIELD
Nucleonics Week 17/1-02
Promising he will step up pressure against the U.K. to stop
emissions from Sellafield, Norwegian Environment Minister
Boerge Brende rallied commercial fisherman in his country
Jan. 15, at a conference called "Lofoten against Sellafield"
held in the northern region of Lofoten.
The Norwegian news agency NTB described the scene as
"like a hallelujah revival meeting," with fishermen tooting
their boats' horns in support of Brende. Some fishermen also
flew small black flags of mourning from their masts, and
fishermen throughout the country are being urged to do the
same in support of the anti-Sellafield campaign.
Brende, who became environment minister when a Conservative
government took over in Norway last year, has been
accused of populism over the Sellafield issue. Although previous
Norwegian governments have protested emissions of
technetium-99 from Sellafield, Brende made the issue his
personal fight practically from his first day in office. He has
written repeated protests to the British government and recently
Lofoten is a major center for commercial fishing in Norway.
Fishermen there have been concerned that even if there
is no evidence of increased radioactivity in their catches, there
will be an international perception that the fish is unsafe.
The rally came just days after the Norwegian Radiation
Protection Authority (NRPA) released a report saying that,
while levels of technetium-99 had increased "significantly" in
Norwegian waters in 1994, "current levels don't represent a
human health threat, based on the information we have today."
Officials added, however, that levels should be reduced
just because the effects are unknown and that more research is
needed on the impact of technetium-99 on marine life.
In his speech, Brende said it is unacceptable to continue
releasing technetium-99 into the ocean on the grounds that it's
not proven to be dangerous. "Even if a dose to an individual
is low, emissions spread and contribute to an increased dose
for very many people over a very long time," Brende said.
"We can't wait until we know it's dangerous. By then it will
be too late."
Brende added that the government has not abandoned
plans to sue the British government if emissions are not
stopped. Ireland has already filed suit. Brende said he is also
concerned about Sellafield's "large problem with liquid, highly
radioactive waste from reprocessing," which he said poses
even more of a threat as a potential terrorist target after the
Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. (NuclearFuel, 7 Jan., 10).
He noted that the government is also keeping a wary eye
on Russian plans to transport nuclear waste and spent fuel
along the Norwegian coast. "The government sees this type of
transport as highly undesirable," Brende said.
-Ariane Sains, Stockholm