Environment Agency to cut emissions from Sellafield

The Environment Agency has announced that it is to improve the way in which it regulates radioactive waste disposal from Sellafield, which is expected to reduce emissions from the facility by around a quarter.


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The Agency launched a consultation on 30 July regarding radioactive waste at Sellafield, including a proposal for a new certificate of authorisation for the management of radioactive wastes, progressive reductions in discharge limits for 22 radionuclides, and discharge limits for three additional radionuclides. There are also proposals for new controls on discharges from individual plants on the site, and a requirement for BNFL to provide reports on issues such as the effects of radionuclides on ecosystems, and to make improvements to their management of radioactive waste.

“The Agency’s proposals should lead to reductions in the potential radiation dose to members of the public, if discharges were made at the authorised limits, by 27% for liquid discharges and by 21% for aerial discharges,” said the Agency’s Chief Executive Barbara Young. “They will also help to implement the UK’s OSPAR (Oslo and Paris Convention) commitments to reduce radioactive discharges to the marine environment.”

“The proposed improvement [in] conditions and information requirements also require BNFL to undertake additional research and development work with the intention of reducing discharges still further in the future,” said Young.

As well as changes in discharges to air and water, the Environment Agency is also proposing that it will no longer authorise the disposal of waste by in-situ burial, instead only authorising waste to be deposited in ‘engineered solid waste disposal areas’, although an Environment Agency spokesperson told edie that this will have little impact on the workings at Sellafield, but should make cleanup at the site easier. It is also proposed that the Health and Safety Executive will assume primary responsibility for the future regulation of contaminated earth at the site. Other proposed improvements include changes to the permitting system for transfers of radioactive waste to other sites, and the installation of monitoring equipment to allow independent assessment of aerial emissions.

This week, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has released an independent report revealing that Sellafield’s MOX plant would be economically viable (see related story). Following a public consultation on the report, the Secretaries of State for Health and DEFRA will consider whether full-scale fuel production should go ahead at the plant.

Comments on the Environment Agency’s document should be sent by 3 December to: The Sellafield Review Team, The Environment Agency, PO Box 114, Penrith, Cumbria, CA11 9GN; telephone 01768 866666; fax 01768 892456; or by email to project.sellafield@environment-agency.gov.uk.

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