UK re-authorises Sellafield radioactive emissions, but promises tougher limits in future

The UK Deputy Prime Minister has announced a reduction in overall radioactive emissions from the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant and the launch of a full review of the site's ocean dumping practices.

The renewed authorisation for Sellafield sets limits for ocean emissions of five radionuclides. Emission levels of one, technetium-99 (Tc-99), is of particular concern. According to Greenpeace UK a letter from the environment ministers of the Nordic Council called on the UK Government to stop all Tc-99 discharges immediately.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott announced the new limits, emphasising the sharp reduction in Tc-99 permissable admissions, from 200 to 90 terabequerels a year.

Prescott also promised further reductions once the Environment Agency for England’s review of Sellafield emissions is complete. Referring to the Ospar agreement that commits the UK to reducing pollutant emissions to sea to near zero discharge levels (see related story), the Deputy Prime Minister confirmed that “this Government is committed to securing progressive cuts in radioactive discharges and discharge limits”.

Greenpeace UK is critical of the renewed authorisation, stating that the new, reduced levels for Tc-99 are “still set 9 times higher than in 1994”. The environmental organisation is campaigning for the decommissioning of Sellafield.

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