Environment Agency seeks opinions on radioactive discharge
The Environment Agency is seeking comments on its proposal to oblige British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) to considerably reduce the discharge of radioactive technetium-99 from its plant at Sellafield into the Irish Sea by 2006.
Technetium-99 (Tc-99), with a half-life of 213,000 years, is produced as a result of the fission of uranium and plutonium in a nuclear reactor, and cannot currently be removed from effluent by the Enhanced Actinide Removal Plant (EARP), which removes other radionuclides such as plutonium and americium. Discharges of Tc-99 have increased recently as a result of the treatment of the historic backlog of waste that is stored on site at Sellafield, though, according to BNFL, the amount being discharged is still radiologically insignificant.
The Environment Agency has considered a number of options for the plant, which is currently discharging up to 90 Terabecquerels (TBq) of Tc-99 per year, taking into consideration environmental impact, technical feasibility, waste management aspects, health and safety, costs, and operational and socio-economic criteria. The options that have been studied by the Agency range from reducing the discharge limit to 10 TBq of Tc-99 per year in 2001, through to retaining the current limit of 90 TBq per year.
The Environment Agency proposes that:
Comments on the consultation document should be made by 5 March 2001, and can be made via the Agency’s website: www.environment-agency.gov.uk/consultations. Alternatively, copies of the document can be obtained from public registers at all offices of the Environment Agency, at the offices of local authorities in Cumbria, at the Lea offices of Lancashire County Council, at the principal offices of all local authorities bordering the Irish Sea in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, or from the Environment Agency on 01768 866 666.
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