Dublin faces fallout from nuclear row

Ireland has sparked the ire of the European Commission by going over its head and asking the UN to settle a spat over the future of the Sellafield nuclear plant.

The European Commission has taken the Republic of Ireland to the European Court of Justice following the country’s decision to bring an action against the UK under the UN’s Convention for the Law of the Sea regarding marine pollution from the Sellafield plant.

The EC argues that the Irish action, which began in 2001, was an infringement of the ECJ’s exclusive jurisdiction and that its breached Ireland’s duty of co-operation.

The dispute could, and should, have been dealt with internally by the EU, says the commission.

On Wednesday, January 18th the court announced that it was minded to agree with the commission and in its opinion Ireland had broken the rules.

This does not amount to a final verdict, however, and that will be delivered later in the proceedings.

For their part, Irish lawyers claim that Dublin was entitled to take the matter up with the UN as the UK’s actions were in breach of environmental protection agreements laid down by the international body.

The case will not deal will the original dispute itself.

The Anglo-Irish spat began when the UK started importing spent nuclear fuel from all over world for processing at the West Cumbrian mixed oxide plant.

Ireland’s complaint was based on health and environmental concerns as well as London’s refusal to share the finding of a public enquiry into the economic justification for the plant.

By Sam Bond

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